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(See p. 246.) 


{IS book deals mainly with some aspects of what may 
termed the psychical life of the inhabitants of the 
adras Presidency, and the Native States of Travancore 
nd Cochin. In my *' Ethnographic Notes in Southern 
ndia" (1906), I stated that the confused chapter devoted 
)! omens, animal superstitions, evil eye, charms, sorcery, 
Up., was a mere outline sketch of a group of subjects, 
ich, if worked up, would furnish material for a volume, 
is chapter has now been remodelled, and supplemented 
ly notes collected since its publication, and information 
vhich lies buried in the seven bulky volumes of my 
incyclopaedic "Castes and Tribes of Southern India" 
1909). The area dealt with (roughly, 182,000 square 
niles, with a population of 47,800,000) is so vast that 
[ have had perforce to supplement the personal know- 
ledge acquired in the course of wandering expeditions 
"n various parts of Southern India, and in other ways, 
byr recourse to the considerable mass of information, 
whch is hidden away in official reports, gazetteers, 
jounals of societies, books, etc. 

To the many friends and correspondents, European 





and Indian, who have helped me in the accumulation 
of facts, and those whose writings I have made liberal 
use of, I would once more express collectively, and with 
all sincerity, my great sense of indebtedness. My thanks 
are due to Mr L. K. Anantha Krishna Iyer for supply- 
ing me with the illustrations of Malabar yantrams. 












I. OMENS . . 13 












INDEX 312 


MALAYAN EXORCIST WITH FOWL IN MOUTH {see p. 246) Frontispiece 




















In seeking for omens, Natives consult the so-called science 
of omens or science of the five birds, and are guided by 
them. Selected omens are always included in native 
calendars or panchangams. 

To the quivering and throbbing of various parts of 
the body as omens, repeated reference is made in the 
Hindu classics. Thus, in Kalidasa's Sakuntala, King 
Dushyanta says: "This hermitage is tranquil, and yet 
my arm throbs. Whence can there be any result from 
this in such a place? But yet the gates of destiny are 
everywhere." Again, Sakuntala says: "Alas! why 
does my right eye throb?" to which Gautami replies: 
"Child, the evil be averted. May the tutelary deities of 
your husband's family confer happy prospects ! " In the 
Raghuvamsa, the statement occurs that "the son of 
Paulastya, being greatly incensed, drove an arrow deep 
into his right arm, which was throbbing, and which, 
therefore, prognosticated his union with Sita." A quiver- 
ing sensation in the right arm is supposed to indicate 
marriage with a beautiful woman ; in the right eye 
some good luck. 



During a marriage among the Telugu Tottiyans, who 
have settled in the Tamil country, a red ram without 
blemich is sacrificed. It is first sprinkled with water, 
and, if it shivers, this is considered a good omen. It is 
recorded,* in connection with the legends of the Badagas 
of the Nilgiris, that "in the heart of the Banagudi shola 
(grove), not far from the Dodduru group of cromlechs, 
is an odd little shrine to Karairaya, within which are a 
tiny cromlech, some sacred water-worn stones, and sundry 
little pottery images representing a tiger, a mounted man, 
and some dogs. These keep in memory, it is said, a 
Badaga who was slain in combat with a tiger ; and 
annually a festival is held, at which new images are placed 
there, and vows are paid. A Kurumba (jungle tribe) 
makes fire by friction, and burns incense, throws sanctified 
water over the numerous goats brought to be sacrificed, 
to see if they will shiver in the manner always held 
necessary in sacrificed victims, and then slays, one after 
the other, those which have shown themselves duly 

In many villages, during the festival to the village 
deity, water is poured over a sheep's back, and it is 
accepted as a good sign if it shivers. " When the people 
are economical, they keep on pouring water till it does 
shiver, to avoid the expense of providing a second victim 
for sacrifice. But, where they are more scrupulous, if it 
does not shiver, it is taken as a sign that the goddess 
will not accept it, and it is taken away."t 

Before the thieving Koravas set out on a predatory 
expedition, a goat is decorated, and taken to a shrine. 
It is then placed before the idol, which is asked whether 
the expedition will be successful. If the body of the 

* " Gazetteer of the Nilgiris," 1908, i. 338. 

t Biskop Whitehead, Madras Museum Bull., 1907, No. 3, v. 134. 


animal quivers, it is regarded as an answer in the 
affirmative ; if it does not, the expedition is abandoned. 

If, in addition to quivering, the animal urinates, no 
better sign could be looked for. Thieves though they 
are, the Koravas make it a point of honour to pay for 
the goat used in the ceremony. It is said that, in seeking 
omens from the quivering of an animal, a very liberal 
interpretation is put on the slightest movement. It is 
recorded by Bishop^ Whitehead * that, when an animal 
has been sacrificed to the goddess Nukalamma at 
Coconada, its head is put before the shrine, and water 
poured on it. If the mouth opens, it is accepted as a 
sign that the sacrifice is accepted. 

At the death ceremonies of the Idaiyans of Coimbatore, 
a cock is tied to a sacrificial post, to which rice is offered. 
One end of a thread is tied to the post, and the other 
end to a new cloth. The thread is watched till it shakes, 
and then broken. The cock is then killed. 

Of omens, both good and bad, in Malabar, the follow- 
ing comprehensive list is given by Mr Logan t : — 

*' Good. — Crows, pigeons, etc., and beasts as deer, etc., 
moving from left to right, and dogs and jackals moving 
inversely, and other beasts found similarly and singly ; 
wild crow, ruddy goose, mungoose, goat, and peacock seen 
singly or in couples either at the right or left. A rainbow 
seen on the right and left, or behind, prognosticates good, 
but the reverse if seen in front. Buttermilk, raw rice, 
puttalpira ( Trichosanthes anguina, snake - gourd), priyangu 
flower, honey, ghi (clarified butter) ; red cotton juice, 
antimony sulphurate, metal mug, bell ringing, lamp, 
lotus, karuka grass, raw fish, flesh, flour, ripe fruits, 
sweetmeats, gems, sandalwood, elephants, pots filled 
with water, a virgin, a couple of Brahmans, Rajas, 

* Madras Museufn Bull., 1907, No. 3, v. 139-40. 
t Malabar, 1887, i. 177-8. 


respectable men, white flower, white yak tail,* white 
cloth, and white horse. Chank shell {Turbinella rapd)^ 
flagstaff, turban, triumphal arch, fruitful soil, burning 
fire, elegant eatables or drinkables, carts with men in, 
cows with their young, mares, bulls or cows with ropes 
tied to their necks, palanquin, swans, peacock and crane 
warbling sweetly. Bracelets, looking-glass, mustard, 
bezoar, any substance of white colour, the bellowing of 
oxen, auspicious words, harmonious human voice, such 
sounds made by birds or beasts, the uplifting of umbrellas, 
hailing exclamations, sound of harp, flute, timbrel, tabor, 
and other instruments of music, sounds of hymns of 
consecration and Vedic recitations, gentle breeze all round 
at the time of a journey. 

" Bad. — Men deprived of their limbs, lame or blind, a 
corpse or wearer of a cloth put on a corpse, coir (cocoanut 
fibre), broken vessels, hearing of words expressive of 
breaking, burning, destroying, etc. ; the alarming cry 
of alas ! alas ! loud screams, cursing, trembling, sneezing, 
the sight of a man in sorrow, one with a stick, a barber, 
a Vvridow, pepper, and other pungent substances. A snake, 
cat, iguana (Varanus), blood-sucker (lizard), or monkey 
passing across the road, vociferous beasts such as jackals, 
dogs, and kites, loud crying from the east, buffalo, donkey, 
or temple bull, black grains, salt, liquor, hide, grass, 
dirt, faggots, iron, flowers used for funeral ceremonies, 
a eunuch, ruffian, outcaste, vomit, excrement, stench, 
any horrible figure, bamboo, cotton, lead, cot, stool or 
other vehicle carried with legs upward, dishes, cups, 
etc., with mouth downwards, vessels filled with live 
coals, which are broken and not burning, broomstick, 
ashes, winnow, hatchet." 

In the category of good omens among the Nayars of 
Travancore, are placed the elephant, a pot full of v/ater, 
sweetmeats, fruit, fish, and flesh, images of gods, kings, 
a cow with its calf, married women, tied bullocks, gold 

* Used as a fly-flapper (chamara). 


lamps, ghi, and milk. In the list of bad omens come 
a donkey, broom, buffalo, untied bullock, barber, widow, 
patient, cat, washerman. The worst of all omens is to allow 
a cat to cross one's path. An odd number of Nayars, and 
an even number of Brahmans, are good omens, the reverse 
being particularly bad. On the Vinayakachaturthi day in 
the month of Avani, no man is allowed to look at the rising 
moon, on penalty of incurring unmerited obloquy. 

By the Pulayas of Travancore, it is considered lucky 
to see another Pulaya, a Native Christian, an Izhuva with 
a vessel in the hand, a cow behind, or a boat containing 
sacks of rice. On the other hand, it is regarded as a 
very bad omen to be crossed by a cat, to see a fight 
between animals, a person with a bundle of clothes, or 
to meet people carrying steel instruments. 

It is a good omen for the day if, when he gets up in 
the morning, a man sees any of the following : — his wife's 
face, the lines on the palm of his right hand, his face 
in a mirror, the face of a rich man, the tail of a black 
cow, the face of a black monkey, or his rice fields. There 
is a legend that Sita used to rise early, and present herself, 
bathed and well dressed, before her lord Rama, so that 
he might gaze on her face, and be lucky during the day. 
This custom is carried out by all good housewives in 
Hindu families. A fair skinned Paraiyan, or a dark 
skinned Brahman, should not, in accordance with a 
proverb, be seen the first thing in the morning. 

Hindus are very particular about catching sight of 
some auspicious object on the morning of New Year's 
Day, as the effects of omens seen on that occasion are 
believed to last throughout the year. Of the Vishu 
festival, held in celebration of the New Year in Malabar, 
the following account is given by Mr Gopal Panikkar.* 

■* " Malabar and its Folk," Madras, 2nd edition, 99-100. 



"Being the commencement of a new year, native 
superstition surrounds it with a peculiarly solemn import- 
ance. It is believed that a man's whole prosperity in life 
depends upon the nature, auspicious or otherwise, of the 
first things that he happens to fix his eyes upon on this 
particular morning. According to Nair, and even general 
Hindu mythology, there are certain objects which possess 
an inherent inauspicious character. For instance, ashes, 
firewood, oil, and a lot of similar objects, are inauspicious 
ones, which will render him who chances to notice them 
first fare badly in life for the whole year, and their 
obnoxious effects will be removed only on his seeing holy 
things, such as reigning princes, oxen, cows, gold, and 
such like, on the morning of the next new year. The 
effects of the sight of these various materials are said to 
apply even to the attainment of objects by a man starting 
on a special errand, who happens for the first time to look 
at them after starting. However, with this view, almost 
every family religiously takes care to prepare the most 
sightworthy objects on the new year morning. Therefore, 
on the previous night, they prepare what is known as 
a kani. A small circular bell-metal vessel is taken, and 
some holy objects are arranged inside it. A grandha or 
old book made of palmyra leaves, a gold ornament, a 
new-washed cloth, some ' unprofitably- gay ' flowers of 
the konna tree {Cassia Fistula)^ a measure of rice, a so- 
called looking-glass made of bell-metal, and a few other 
things, are all tastefully arranged in the vessel, and placed 
in a prominent room inside the house. On either side of 
this vessel, two brass or bell-metal lamps, filled with 
cocoanut oil clear as diamond sparks, are kept burning, 
and a small plank of wood, or some other seat, is placed 
in front of it. At about five o'clock in the morning of 
the day, some one who has got up first wakes the inmates, 
both male and female, of the house, and takes them 
blindfolded, so that they may not gaze at anything else, 
to the seat near the kani. The members are seated, one 
after another, in the seat, and are then, and not till then, 


asked to open their eyes, and carefully look at the kani. 
Then each is made to look at some venerable member of 
the house, or sometimes a stranger even. This over, the 
little playful urchins of the house fire small crackers which 
they have bought for the occasion. The kani is then 
taken round the place from house to house, for the benefit 
of the poor families, which cannot afford to prepare such 
a costly adornment." 

I gather further, in connection with the Vishu festival, 
that it is the duty of every devout Hindu to see the village 
deity the first of all things in the morning. For this 
purpose, many sleep within the temple precincts, and 
those who sleep in their own houses are escorted thither 
by those who have been the first to make their obeisance. 
Many go to see the image with their eyes shut, and 
sometimes bound with a cloth.* 

If a person places the head towards the east when 
sleeping, he will obtain wealth and health ; if towards 
the south, a lengthening of life ; if towards the west, 
fame ; if towards the north, sickness. The last position, 
therefore, should be avoided. f In the Telugu country, 
when a child is roused from sleep by a thunderclap, 
the mother, pressing it to her breast, murmurs, ''Arjuna 
Sahadeva." The invocation implies the idea that thunder 
is caused by the Mahabharata heroes, Arjuna and 
Sahadeva.j To dream of a temple car in motion, fore- 
tells the death of a near relative. Night, but not day 
dreams, are considered as omens for good or evil. 
Among those which are auspicious, may be mentioned 
riding on a cow, bull, or elephant, entering a temple 
or palace, a golden horse, climbing a mountain or 
tree, drinking liquor, eating flesh, curds and rice, 

* N. Sunkuni Wariar, " Ind. Ant.," 1892, xxi. 96. 

t K. Srikantaliar, "Ind. Ant.," 1892, xxi. 193. 

X M. N. Venkataswami, " Ind. Ant.," 1905, xxxir. 176. 


wearing white cloths, or jewelry set with precious 
stones, being dressed in white cloths, and embracing 
a woman, whose body is smeared with sandal paste. 
A person will be cured of sickness if he dreams of 
Brahmans, kings, flowers, jewels, women, or a looking- 
glass. Wealth is ensured by a dream that one is bitten 
in the shade by a snake, or stung by a scorpion. One 
who dreams that he has been bitten by a snake is con- 
sidered to be proof against snake-bite ; and if he dreams 
of a cobra, his wife or some near relative is believed to 
have conceived. Hindu wives believe that to tell their 
husband's name, or pronounce it even in a dream, would 
bring him to an untimely end. If a person has an 
auspicious dream, he should get up and not go to sleep 
again. But, if the dream is of evil omen, he should pray 
that he may be spared from its ill effects, and may go 
to sleep again. 

The arrival of a guest is foreshadowed by the hissing 
noise of the oven, the slipping of a winnow during 
winnowing, or of a measure when measuring rice. If one 
dines with a friend or relation on Monday, Wednesday, 
Friday, or Saturday, it is well ; if on a Tuesday, ill- 
feeling will ensue ; if on a Thursday, endless enmity ; if 
on a Sunday, hatred. While eating, one should face 
east, west, south, or north, according as one wishes for 
long life, fame, to become vainglorious, or for justice or 
truth. Evil is foreshadowed if a light goes out during 
meals, or while some auspicious thing, such, for example, 
as a marriage, is being discussed. A feast given to the 
jungle Paliyans by some missionaries was marred at the 
outset by the unfortunate circumstance that betel and 
tobacco were placed by the side of the food, these articles 
being of evil omen as they are placed in the grave with 
the dead. Chewing a single areca nut, along with betel 


leaf secures vigour, two nuts are inauspicious, three are 
excellent, and more bring indifferent luck. The basal 
portion of the betel leaf must be rejected, as it produces 
disease ; the apical part, as it induces sin ; and the 
midrib and veins, as they destroy the intellect. A leaf 
on which chunam (lime) has been kept, should be avoided, 
as it may shorten life. 

Before the Koyis shift their quarters, they consult the 
omens, to see whether the change will be auspicious or 
not. Sometimes the hatching of a clutch of eggs provides 
the answer, or four grains of four kinds of seed, repre- 
senting the prosperity of men, cattle, sheep, and land, 
are put on a heap of ashes under a man's bed. Any 
movement among them during the night is a bad omen.* 

When a Kondh starts on a shooting expedition, if he 
first meets an adult female, married or unm.arried, he will 
return home, and ask a child to tell the females to keep 
out of the way. He will then make a fresh start, and, 
if he meets a female, will wave his hand to her as a 
sign that she must keep clear of him. The Kondh 
believes that, if he sees a female, he will not come across 
animals in the jungle to shoot. If a woman is in her 
menses, her husband, brothers, and sons living under the 
same roof, will not go out shooting for the same reason. 

It is noted by Mr F. Fawcettf that it is considered 
unlucky by the Koravas, when starting on a dacoity 
or housebreaking, "to see widows, pots of milk, dogs 
urinating, a man leading a bull, or a bull bellowing. On 
the other hand, it is downright lucky when a bull bellows 
at the scene of the criminal operation. To see a man 
goading a bull is a good omen when starting, and a bad 
one at the scene. The eighteenth day of the Tamil month, 

* "GazeUeer of the Godavari District," 1907, i. 66. 
t " Note on the Koravas," 1908. 


Avani, is the luckiest day of all for committing crimes. 
A successful criminal exploit on this day ensures good 
luck throughout the year. Sundays, which are auspicious 
for weddings, are inauspicious for crimes. Mondays, 
Wednesdays, and Saturdays are unlucky until noon for 
starting out from home. So, too, is the day after new 
moon." Fridays are unsuitable for breaking into the 
houses of Brahmans or Komatis, as they may be engaged 
in worshipping Ankalamma, to whom the day is sacred. 

Some Boyas in the Bellary district enjoy inam (rent 
free) lands, in return for propitiating the village goddesses 
by a rite called bhuta bali, which is intended to secure 
the prosperity of the village. The Boya priest gets 
himself shaved at about midnight, sacrifices a sheep or 
buffalo, mixes its blood with rice, and distributes the 
rice thus prepared in small balls throughout the village. 
When he starts on this business, all the villagers bolt their 
doors, as it is not considered auspicious to see him then. 

When a student starts for the examination hall, he 
will, if he sees a widow or a Brahman, retrace his steps, 
and start again after the lapse of a few minutes. Meeting 
two Brahmans would indicate good luck, and he would 
proceed on his way full of hope. 

If, when a person is leaving his house, the head or 
feet strike accidentally against the threshold, he should 
not go out, as it forebodes some impending mischief. 
Sometimes, when a person returns home from a distance, 
especiall)'^ at night, he is kept standing at the door, and, 
after he has washed his hands and feet, an elderly female 
or servant of the house brings a shallow plate full of 
water mixed with lime juice and chunam (lime), with some 
chillies and pieces of charcoal floating on it. The plate 
is carried three times round the person, and the contents 
are then thrown into the street without being seen by the 
man. He then enters the house. If a person knocks at 



the door of a house in the night once, twice, or thrice, 
it will not be opened. If the knock is repeated a fourth 
time, the door will be opened without fear, for the evil 
spirit is said to knock only thrice. 

A tickling sensation in the sole of the right foot fore- 
tells that the person has to go on a journey. The omens 
are favourable if any of the following are met with by 
one who is starting on a journey, or special errand : — 

Married woman. 
Two Brahmans. 
Playing of music. 
One carrying musical instru- 

Fruit or flowers. 
A light, or clear blazing fire. 
Cooked food. 
Milk or curds. 
Two fishes. 
Recital of Vedas. 
Sound of drum or horn. 
Spirituous liquor. 



Precious stones. 

One bearing a silver armlet. 





Pot full of water. 

Married woman carrying awater- 

pot from a tank. 
Pot of toddy. 
Black monkey. 

Royal eagle. 

Hearing kind words. 
A Gazula Balija with his pile of 

bangles on his back. 

If, on similar occasions, a person comes across any 
of the following, the omens are unfavourable : — 




Smoky fire. 


Crow flying from right to left. 


New pot. 

Blind man. 

Lame man. 

Sick man. 

Salt. ' 


Pot of oil. 


Dog barking on a housetop. 

Bundle of sticks. 


Empty vessel. 

A quarrel. 

Man with dishevelled hair. 





Sometimes people leave their house, and sleep else- 
where on the night preceding an inauspicious day, on 
which a journey is to be made. Unlucky days for starting 
on a journey are vara-sulai, or days on which Siva's trident 
(sula) is kept on the ground. The direction in which it 
lies, varies according to the day of the week. For 
example, Sunday before noon is a bad time to start 
towards the west, as the trident is turned that way. It 
is said to be unlucky to go westward on Friday or Sunday, 
eastward on Monday or Saturday, north on Tuesday or 
Wednesday, south on Thursday. A journey begun on 
Tuesday is liable to result in loss by thieves or fire at 
home. Loss, too, is likely to follow a journey begun on 
Saturday, and sickness a start on Sunday. Wednesday 
and Friday are both propitious days, and a journey begun 
on either with a view to business will be lucrative. The 
worst days for travelling are Tuesday, Saturday, and 
Sunday.* On more than one occasion, a subordinate in 
my office overstayed his leave on the ground that his 
guru (spiritual preceptor) told him that the day on which 
he should have returned was an unlucky one for a 

If a traveller sees a hare on his way, he may be sure 
that he will not succeed in the object of his journey. If, 
however, the hare touches him, and he does not at once 
turn back and go home, he is certain to meet with a great 
misfortune. There is an authority for this superstition 
in the Ramayana. After Rama had recovered Sita and 
returned to Ayodha, he was informed that, whilst a 
washerman and his wife were quarrelling, the former had 
exclaimed that he was not such a fool as the king had 
been to take back his wife after she had been carried away 
by a stranger. Rama thought this over, and resolved to 
* M. J. Walhouse, " Ind. Ant.," i88i, x. 366. 


send his wife into the forest. His brother, Lutchmana, was 
to drive her there, and then to leave her alone. On their 
way they met a hare, and Sita, who was ignorant of the 
purpose of the journey, begged Lutchmana to return, as 
the omen was a bad one.* 

If a dog scratches its body, a traveller will fall ill ; if 
it lies down and wags its tail, some disaster will follow. 
To one proceeding on a journey, a dog crossing the path 
from right to left is auspicious. But, if it gets on his 
person or his feet, shaking its ears, the journey will be 

A person should postpone an errand on which he is 
starting, if he sees a cobra or rat-snake. In a recent 
judicial case, a witness gave evidence to the effect that he 
was starting on a journey, and when he had proceeded 
a short way, a snake crossed the road. This being an 
evil omen, he went back and put off his journey till the 
following day. On his way he passed through a village 
in which some men had been arrested for murder, and 
found that one of two men, whom he had promised to 
accompany and had gone on without him, had been 

Sneezing once is a good sign ; twice, a bad sign. When 
a child sneezes, those near it usually say ''dirgayus" 
(long life), or "sathayus" (a hundred years). The rishi 
or sage Markandeya, who was remarkable for his austerities 
and great age, is also known as Dirgayus. Adults who 
sneeze pronounce the name of some god, the common 
expression being " Srimadrangam." When a Badaga 
baby is born, it is a good omen if the father sneezes 
before the umbilical cord has been cut, and an evil 
one if he sneezes after its severance. In the Teluga 
country it is believed that a child who sneezes on a 
* " Manual of the Cuddapah District," 1875, 293. 


winnowing fan, or on the door-frame, will meet with 
misfortune unless balls of boiled rice are thrown over it ; 
and a man who sneezes during his meal, especially at 
night, will also be unlucky unless water is sprinkled over 
his face, and he is made to pronounce his own name, 
and that of his birthplace and his patron deity.* 

Gaping is an indication that evil spirits have effected 
an entrance into the body. Hence many Brahmans, when 
they gape, snap their fingers as a preventive.! When a 
great man yawns, his sleep is promoted by all the company 
with him snapping their fingers with great vehemence, 
and making a singular noise. It was noted by Alberuni | 
that Hindus "spit out and blow their noses without any 
respect for the elder ones present, and crack their lice 
before them. They consider the crepitus ventris as a good 
omen, sneezing as a bad omen." In Travancore, a 
courtier must cover the mouth with the right hand, lest 
his breath should pollute the king or other superior. 
Also, at the temples, a low - caste man must wear a 
bandage over his nose and mouth, so that his breath may 
not pollute the idols. § A Kudumi woman in Travancore, 
at the menstrual period, should stand at a distance of 
seven feet, closing her mouth and nostrils with the palm 
of her hand, as her breath would have a contaminating 
effect. Her shadow, too, should not fall on any one. 

A Kumbara potter, when engaged in the manufacture 
of the pot or household deity for the Kurubas, should 
cover his mouth with a bandage, so that his breath may 
not defile it. The Koragas of South Canara are said to 
be regarded with such intense loathing that, up to quite 

* "Gazetteer of the Godavari District," 1907, i. 47. 

+ M. J. Walhouse, " Ind. Ant.," 1876, v. 21. 

% India, Triibner, Oriental Series, 1888, i. 182. 

§ Rev. S. Mateer, "Native Life in Travancore,'' 1883, 330-52. 


recent times, one section of them called Ande or pot 
Kurubas, continually wore a pot suspended from their 
necks, into which they were compelled to spit, being so 
utterly unclean as to be prohibited from even spitting on 
the highway.* In a note on the Paraiyans (Pariahs), 
Sonnerat, writing in the eighteenth century, -j- says that, 
when drinking, they put the cup to their lips, and their 
fingers to their mouths, in such a way that they are defiled 
with the spittle. A Brahman may take snuff, but he 
should not smoke a cheroot or cigar. When once the 
cheroot has touched his lips, it is defiled by the 
saliva, and, therefore, cannot be returned to his 
mouth. I 

At the festivals of the village deities in the Telugu 
country, an unmarried Madiga (Telugu Pariah) woman, 
called Matangi § (the name of a favourite goddess) spits 
upon the people assembled, and touches them with her 
stick. Her touch and saliva are believed to purge all 
uncleanliness of body and soul, and are said to be invited 
by men who would ordinarily scorn to approach her. At 
a festival called Kathiru in honour of a village goddess 
in the Cochin State, the Pulayans (agrestic slaves) go 
in procession to the temple, and scatter packets of palm- 
leaves containing handfuls of paddy (unhusked rice) rolled 
up in straw among the crowds of spectators along the 
route. "The spectators, both young and old, scramble to 
obtain as many of the packets as possible, and carry them 
home. They are then hung in front of the houses, for 
it is believed that their presence will help to promote 
the prosperity of the family, until the festival comes round 

* M. J. Walhouse, yb«r«. Anthrop. Inst., 1874, iv. 373. 
t Voyage to the East Indies, 1777 and 1781. 
\ Rev. J. A. Sharrock, " South- Indian Missions," 1910, 9. 
§ See Emma Rosenbusch (Mrs Clough), " While sev/ing Sandals, or 
Tales of a Telugu Pariah Tribe." 


again next year. The greater the number of trophies 
obtained for a family by its members, the greater, it 
is believed, will be the prosperity of the family."* 

In a note on the Kulwadis or Chalavadis of the Hassan 
district in Mysore, Captain J. S. F. Mackenzie writes f 
as follows : — 

" Every village has its Holigiri — as the quarters inhabited 
by the Hollars (formerly agrestic serfs) is called — outside 
the village boundary hedge. This, I thought, was because 
they are considered an impure race, whose touch carries 
defilement with it. Such is the reason generally given 
by the Brahman, who refuses to receive anything directly 
from the hands of a Holiar, and yet the Brahmans consider 
great luck will wait upon them if they can manage to 
pass through the Holigiri without being molested. To 
this the Holiars have a strong objection, and, should 
a Brahman attempt to enter their quarters, they turn 
out in a body and slipper him, in former times it is said 
to death. Members of the other castes may come as 
far as the door, but they must not enter the house, for 
that would bring the Holiar bad luck. If, by chance, 
a person happens to get in, the owner takes care to tear 
the intruder's cloth, tie up some salt in one corner of 
it, and turn him out. This is supposed to neutralise 
all the good luck which might have accrued to the 
trespasser, and avert any evil which might have befallen 
the owner of the house." 

The Telugu Tottiyans, who have settled in the Tamil 
country, are said by Mr F. R. Hemingway not to recognise 
the superiority of Brahmans. They are supposed to 
possess unholy powers, especially the Nalla (black) Gollas, 
and are much dreaded by their neighbours. They do 

* L. K. Anantha Krishna Iyer, " The Cochin Tribes and Castes," 
1909, i. 114. 

t "Ind. Ant," 1873, ii. 65. ' 


not allow any stranger to enter their villages with shoes 
on, or on horseback, or holding up an umbrella, lest 
their god should be offended. It is believed that, if 
any one breaks this rule, he will be visited with illness 
or some other punishment. 

I am informed by Mr S. P. Rice that, when smallpox 
breaks out in a Hindu house, it is a popular belief that 
to allow strangers or unclean persons to go into the 
house, to observe festivals, and even to permit persons 
who have combed their hair, bathed in oil, or had a 
shave, to see the patient, would arouse the anger of 
the goddess, and bring certain death to the sick person. 
Strangers, and young married women are not admitted 
to, and may not approach the house, as they may have 
had sexual intercourse on the previous day. 

It is believed that the sight or breath of Muhammadans, 
just after they have said their prayers at a mosque, will 
do good to children suffering from various disorders. 
For this purpose, women carry or take their children, 
and post themselves at the entrance to a mosque at the 
time when worshippers leave it. Most of them are 
Hindus, but sometimes poor Eurasians may be seen 
there. I once received a pathetic appeal from a Eurasian 
woman in Malabar, imploring me to lay my hands on 
the head of her sick child, so that its life might be 

In teaching the Grandha alphabet to children, they 
are made to repeat the letter '*ca" twice quickly without 
pausing, as the word "ca" means "die." In Malabar, the 
instruction of a Tiyan child in the alphabet is said by 
Mr F. Fawcett to begin on the last day of the Dasara 
festival in the fifth year of its life. A teacher, who has 
been selected with care, or a lucky person, holds the 
child's right hand, and makes it trace the letters of the 


Malayalam alphabet in rice spread on a plate. The fore- 
finger, which is the one used in offering water to the 
souls of the dead, and in other parts of the death 
ceremonies, must not be used for tracing the letters, 
but is placed above the middle finger, merely to steady 
it. For the same reason, a doctor, when making a pill, 
will not use the forefinger. To mention the number seven 
in Telugu is unlucky, because the word (yedu) is the 
same as that for weeping. Even a treasury officer, who 
is an enlightened university graduate, in counting money, 
will say six and one. The number seven is, for the same 
reason, considered unlucky by the Koravas, and a house- 
breaking expedition should not consist of seven men. 
Should this, however, be unavoidable, a fiction is indulged 
in of making the house-breaking implement the eighth 
member of the gang.* In Tamil the word ten is con- 
sidered inauspicious, because, on the tenth day after the 
death of her husband, a widow removes the emblems of 
married life. Probably for this reason, the offspring of 
Kalian polyandrous marriages style themselves the children 
of eight and two, not ten fathers. Labha is a Sanskrit 
word meaning profit or gain, and has its equivalent in 
all the vernacular languages. Hindus, when counting, 
commence with this word instead of the word signifying 
one. In like manner, Muhammadans use the word 
Bismillah or Burketh, apparently as an invocation like 
the medicinal E? (Oh ! Jupiter, aid us). When the number 
a hundred has been counted, they again begin with the 
substitute for one, and this serves as a one ^ir the 
person who is keeping the tally. Oriya merch;?hts say 
labho (gain) instead of eko (one), when counting* out the 
seers of rice for the elephants' rations. The people of 
the Oriya Zemindaris often use, not the year of the 

* F. Fawcett, "Note on the Koravas," 1908. 


Hindu cycle or Muhammadan era, but the year of the 
reigning Raja of Puri. The first year of the reign is 
called, not one, but labho. The counting then proceeds 
in the ordinary course, but, with the exception of the 
number ten, all numbers ending with seven or nothing 
are omitted. This is called the onko. Thus, if a Raja 
has reigned two and a half years, he would be said to 
be in the twenty-fifth onko, seven, seventeen and twenty 
being omitted.* For chewing betel, two other ingredients 
are necessary, viz., areca nuts and chunam (lime). For 
some reason, Tamil Vaishnavas object to mentioning the 
last by name, and call it moonavadu, or the third. 

At a Brahman funeral, the sons and nephews of the 
deceased go round the corpse, and untie their kudumi 
(hair knot), leaving part thereof loose, tie up the rest 
into a small bunch, and slap their thighs. Consequently, 
when children at play have their kudumi partially tied, 
and slap their thighs, they are invariably scolded owing 
to the association with funerals. Among all Hindu classes 
it is considered as an insult to the god to bathe or wash 
the feet on returning home from worship at a temple, 
and, by so doing, the punyam (good) would be lost. 
Moreover, washing the feet at the entrance to a home 
is connected with funerals, inasmuch as, on the return 
from the burning-ground, a mourner may not enter the 
house until he has washed his feet. The Badagas of 
the Nilgiris hold an agricultural festival called devve, 
which should on no account be pronounced duvve, which 
means burning-ground. 

A L azaar shop-keeper who deals in colours will not 
sell white paint after the lamps have been lighted. In 
like manner, a cloth-dealer refuses to sell black cloth, 

* S. P. Rice, " Occasional Essays on Native South Indian Life," 
iQoi, 95-6. 


and the dealer in hardware to sell nails, needles, etc., 
lest poverty should ensue. Digging operations with a 
spade should be stopped before the lamps are lighted. 
A betel-vine cultivator objects to entering his garden or 
plucking a leaf after the lighting of the lamps ; but, if 
some leaves are urgently required, he will, before pluck- 
ing them, pour water from a pot at the foot of the tree 
on which the vine is growing. 

Arrack (liquor) vendors consider it unlucky to set their 
measures upside down. Some time ago, the Excise 
Commissioner informs me, the Madras Excise Department 
had some aluminium measures made for measuring arrack 
in liquor shops. It was found that the arrack corroded 
the aluminium, and the measures soon leaked. The shop- 
keepers were told to turn their measures upside down, 
in order that they might drain. This they refused to 
do, as it would bring bad luck to their shops. New 
measures with round bottoms, which would not stand 
up, were evolved. But the shop-keepers began to use 
rings of indiarubber from soda-water bottles, to make 
them stand. An endeavour was then made to induce 
them to keep their measures inverted by hanging them 
on pegs, so that they would drain without being turned 
upside down. The case illustrates how important a 
knowledge of the superstitions of the people is in the 
administration of their affairs. Even so trifling an 
innovation as the introduction of a new arrangement for 
maintaining tension in the warp during the process of 
weaving gave rise a few years ago to a strike among 
the hand-loom weavers at the Madras School of Arts. 

When a Paidi (agriculturists and weavers in Ganjam) 
is seriously ill, a male or female sorcerer (bejjo or bejjano) 
is consulted. A square divided into sixteen compartments 
is drawn on the floor with rice flour. In each compart- 


ment are placed a leaf-cup of Butea frondosa, a quarter- 
anna piece, and some food. Seven small bows and 
arrows are set up in front thereof in two lines. On one 
side of the square, a big cup filled with food is placed. 
A fowl is sacrificed, and its blood poured thrice round 
this cup. Then, placing water in a vessel near the cup, 
the sorcerer or sorceress throws into it a grain of rice, 
giving out at the same time the name of some god or 
goddess. If the rice sinks, it is believed that the illness 
is caused by the anger of the deity, whose name has been 
mentioned. If the rice floats, the names of various deities 
are called out, until a grain sinks. When selecting a site 
for a new dwelling hut, the Maiiah Savaras place on the 
proposed site as many grains of rice in pairs as there are 
married members in the family, and cover them over with 
a cocoanut shell. They are examined on the following 
day, and, if they are all there, the site is considered 
auspicious. Among the Kapu Savaras, the grains of rice 
are folded up in leaflets of the bael tree {^gle Marmelos)^ 
and placed in a split bamboo. 

It is recorded by Gloyer* that "when a Domb 
(Vizagapatam hill tribe) house has to be built, the first 
thing is to select a favourable spot, to which few evil 
spirits (dumas) resort. At this spot they put, in several 
places, three grains of rice arranged in such a way that 
the two lower grains support the upper one. To protect 
the grains, they pile up stones round them, and the 
whole is lightly covered with earth. When, after some 
time, they find on inspection that the upper grain has 
fallen off, the spot is regarded as unlucky, and must 
not be used. If the position of the grains remains un- 
changed, the omen is regarded as auspicious. They drive 
in the first post, which must have a certain length, say of 

* Jeypore, Breklum, 1901. 



five, seven, or nine ells, the ell being measured from the 
tip of the middle finger to the elbow. The post is covered 
on the top with rice straw, leaves, and shrubs, so that 
birds may not foul it, which would be an evil omen." 

In Madras, a story is current with reference to the statue 
of Sir Thomas Munro, that he seized upon all the rice 
depots, and starved the people by selling rice in egg- 
shells, at one shell for a rupee. To punish him, the 
Government erected the statue in an open place without 
a canopy, so that the birds of the air might insult him by 
polluting his face. In the Bellary district, the names 
Munrol and Munrolappa are common, and are given in 
hope that the boy may attain the same celebrity as the 
former Governor of Madras. (I once came across a Telugu 
cultivator, who rejoiced in the name of Curzon). One 
of Sir Thomas Munro's good qualities was that, like 
Rama and Rob Roy, his arms reached to his knees, or, 
in other words, he possessed the quality of an Ajanubahu, 
which is the heritage of kings, or those who have blue 
blood in them. 

In a case of dispute between two Koravas,* ''the 
decision is sometimes arrived at by means of an ordeal. 
An equal quantity of rice is placed in two pots of equal 
weight, having the same quantity of water, and there 
is an equal quantity of fire- wood. The judges satisfy 
themselves most carefully as to quantity, weights, and so 
on. The water is boiled, and the man whose rice boils 
first is declared to be the winner of the dispute. The loser 
has to recoup the winner all his expenses. It sometimes 
happens that both pots boil at the same time ; then a coin 
is to be picked out of a pot containing boiling oil." 

At one of the religious ceremonies of the Koravas, 
offerings of boiled rice (pongal) are made to the deity, 
^ F. Fawcett, " Note on the Koravas," 1908. 


Poleramma, by fasting women. The manner in which the 
boiling food bubbles over from the cooking-pot is eagerly 
watched, and accepted as an omen for good or evil. A 
festival called Pongal is observed by Hindus on the first 
day of the Tamil month Tai, and derives its name from the 
fact that rice boiled in milk is offered to propitiate the 
Sun God. 

Before the ceremony of walking through fire * (burn- 
ing embers) at Nidugala on the Nilgiris, the omens are 
taken by boiling two pots of milk, side by side, on two 
hearths. If the milk overflows uniformly on all sides, 
the crops will be abundant for all the villages. But, if it 
flows over on one side only, there will be plentiful crops 
for villages on that side only. For boiling the milk, a 
light obtained by friction must be used. After the milk- 
boiling ceremonial, the pujari (priest), tying bells on his 
legs, approaches the fire-pit, carrying milk freshly drawn 
from a cow, which has calved for the first time, and flowers 
of Rhododendron, Leucas, or jasmine. After doing puja 
(worship), he throws the flowers on the embers, and they 
should remain unscorched for a few seconds. He then 
pours some of the milk over the embers, and no hissing 
sound should be produced. The omens being propitious, 
he walks over the glowing embers, followed by a Udayaf 
and the crowd of celebrants, who, before going through 
the ordeal, count the hairs on their feet. If any are singed, 
it is a sign of approaching ill-fortune, or even death. 

It is recorded by the Rev. J. Cain % that, when the 

* Fire-walking, see Thurston, "Ethnographic Notes in Southern 
India,'' 1907, 471-86. 

t Udaya is one of the divisions of the Badagas, which ranks as 
superior to the other divisions. 

X Koyis, see Cain, Madras Christian College Magazine (old series), 
V. 352-9, and vi. 274-80 ; also " Ind. Ant.," v., 1876, and viii., 


Koyis of the Godavari district determine to appease the 

goddess of smallpox or cholera, they erect a pandal 

(booth) outside their village under a nim tree {Melia 

Azadivachtd). They make the image of a woman with 

earth from a white-ant hill, tie a cloth or two round it, 

hang a few peacock's feathers round its neck, and place 

it under the pandal on a three-legged stool made from the 

wood of the silk-cotton tree {Cochlospermutn Gossypium). 

They then bring forward a chicken, and try to persuade 

it to eat some of the grains which they have thrown before 

the image, requesting the goddess to inform them whether 

she will leave their village or not. If the chicken picks 

up some of the grains, they regard it as a most favourable 

omen ; but, if not, their hearts are filled with dread of 

the continued anger of the goddess. At the Bhudevi 

Panduga, or festival of the earth goddess, according to 

Mr F. R. Hemingway, the Koyis set up a stone beneath 

a Terminalia iomeniosa tree, which is thus dedicated to 

the goddess Kodalamma. Each worshipper brings a 

cock to the priest, who holds it over grains of rice, which 

have been sprinkled before the goddess. If the bird pecks 

at the rice, good luck is ensured for the coming year, 

whilst, if perchance the bird pecks three times, the offerer 

of that particular bird can scarcely contain himself for joy. 

If the bird declines to touch the grains, ill-luck is sure to 

visit the owner's house during the ensuing year. 

Concerning a boundary oath in the Mulkangiri taluk 
of Vizagapatam, Mr C. A. Henderson writes to me as 
follows : — 

" The pujari (priest) levelled a piece of ground about a 
foot square, and smeared it with cow-dung. The boundary 
was marked with rice-flour and turmeric, and a small heap 
of rice and cow-dung was left in the middle. A sword was 
laid across the heap. The pujari touched the rice-flour 


line with the tips of his fingers, and then pressed his 
knuckles on the same place, thus leaving- an exit on the 
south side. He then held a chicken over the central heap, 
and muttered some mantrams. The chicken pecked at 
the rice, and an egg was placed on the heap. The chicken 
then pecked at the rice again. The ceremony then waited 
for another party, who performed a similar ceremony. 
There was some amusement because their chickens would 
not eat. The chickens were decapitated, and their heads 
placed in the square. The eggs were then broken. It 
was raining, and there was a resulting puddle of cow- 
dung, chicken's blood, egg, and rice, of which the 
representatives of each party took a portion, and eat it, 
or pretended to do so, stating to whom the land belonged. 
There is said to be a belief that, if a man swears falsely, 
he will die." 

Though not bearing on the subject of omens, some 
further boundary ceremonies may be placed under i^efer- 
ence. At Sattamangalam, in the South Arcot district, the 
festival of the goddess Mariamma is said to be crowned by 
the sacrifice at midnight of a goat, the entrails of which 
are hung round the neck of the Toti (scavenger), who then 
goes, stark naked, save for this one adornment, round all 
the village boundaries.* 

It is recorded by Bishop Whitehead t that, in some 
parts of the Tamil country, e.g:, in the Trichinopoly 
district, at the ceremony for the propitiation of the village 
boundary goddess, a priest carries a pot containing boiled 
rice and the blood of a lamb which has been sacrificed to 
the boundary stone, round which he runs three times. 
The third time he throws the pot over his shoulder on to 
another smaller stone, which stands at the foot of the 
boundary stone. The pot is dashed to pieces, and 

* "Gazetteer of the South Arcot District," 1906, i. 98. 
t Madras Museujn Bull., 1907, No. 3, v. 166. 


the rice and blood scatter over the two stones and all round 
them. The priest then goes away without looking back, 
followed by the crowd of villagers in dead silence. 
In the Cuddapah district, when there is a boundary 
dispute in a village, an image of the goddess Gangamma 
is placed in the street, and left there for two days. The 
head of a buffalo and several sheep are offered to her, and 
the blood is allowed to run into the gutter. The goddess 
is then worshipped, and she is implored to point out the 
correct boundary.* In Mysore, if there is a dispute as to 
the village boundaries, the Holeyaf Kuluvadi is believed 
to be the only person competent to take the oath as to how 
the boundary ought to run. The old custom for settling 
such disputes is thus described by Captain J. S. F. 
Mackenzie : J 

''The Kuluvadi, carrying on his head a ball made of 
the village earth, in the centre of which is placed some 
earth, passes along the boundary. If he has kept the 
proper line, everything goes well, but, should he, by 
accident even, go beyond his own proper boundary, then 
the ball of earth, of its own accord, goes to pieces. The 
Kuluvadi is said to die within fifteen days, and his house 
becomes a ruin. Such is the popular belief." 

Some years ago Mr H. D. Taylor was called on to 
settle a boundary dispute between two villages in Jeypore 
under the following circumstances. As the result of a 
panchayat (council meeting), the men of one village had 
agreed to accept the boundary claimed by the other party 
if the head of their village walked round the boundary and 
eat earth at intervals, provided that no harm came to him 
within six months. The man accordingly perambulated 

"■ "Manual of the Cuddapah District," 1875, 291. 
t The Holeyas were formerly agrestic serfs. 
I "lud. Ant.," 1873, ii. 66. 

OMENS 89. 

the boundary eating earth, and a conditional order of 
possession was given. Shortly afterwards the man's cattle 
died, one of his children died of smallpox, and finally 
he himself died within three months. The other party 
then claimed the land on the ground that the earth- 
goddess had proved him to have perjured himself. It was 
urged in defence that the man had been made to eat earth 
at such frequent intervals that he contracted dysentery, 
and died from the effects of earth-eating.* 

When the time for the annual festival of the tribal 
goddess of the Kuruvikkarans (Marathi-speaking beggars) 
draws nigh, the headman or an elder piles up Vigna 
Catiang seeds in five small heaps. He then decides in his 
mind whether there is an odd or even number of seeds in 
the majority of heaps. If, when the seeds are counted, 
the result agrees with his forecast, it is taken as a sign of 
the approval of the goddess, and arrangements for the 
festival are made. Otherwise it is abandoned for the year. 

At the annual festival of Chaudeswari, the tribal 
goddess of Devanga weavers, the priest tries to balance a 
long sword on its point on the edge of the mouth of a pot. 
A lime fruit is placed in the region of the navel of the 
idol, who should throw it down spontaneously. A bundle 
of betel leaves is cut across with a knife, and the cut ends 
should unite. If the omens are favourable, a lamp made of 
rice-flour is lighted, and pongal (boiled rice) offered to it. 

It is recorded by Canter Visscherf that, in the building 
of a house in Malabar, the carpenters open three or four 
cocoanuts, spilling the juice as little as possible, and put 
some tips of betel leaves into them. From the way these 
float on the liquid they foretell whether the house will 

■* Earth-eating (geophagy), see my " Ethnographic Notes in Southern 
India," 1907, 552-4. 

t Letters from Malabar, Translation, Madras, 1862. 


be lucky or unlucky, whether it will stand for a long or 
short period, and whether another will ever be erected 
on its site. 

Korava women, if their husbands are absent on a 
criminal expedition long enough to arouse apprehension 
of danger, pull a long piece out of a broom, and tie to 
one end of it several small pieces dipped in oil. If the 
stick floats in water, all is well ; but, should it sink, two 
of the women start at once to find the men.* 

In the village of Chakibunda in the Cuddapah district, 
there is a pool of water at the foot of a hill. Those who 
are desirous of getting children, wealth, etc., go there and 
pour oil into the water. The oil is said not to float as is 
usual in greasy bubbles, but to sink and never rise. They 
also offer betel leaves, on which turmeric and kunkumam 
have been placed. If these leaves sink, and after some 
time reappear without the turmeric and kunkumam, but 
with the marks of nails upon them, the person offering 
them will gain his wishes. The contents of the leaves, 
and the oil, are supposed to be consumed by some divine 
being at the bottom of the pool.f At Madicheruvu, in the 
Cuddapah district, there is a small waterfall in the midst 
of a jungle, which is visited annually by a large number 
of pilgrims. Those who are anxious to know if their sins 
are forgiven stand under the fall. If they are acceptable 
the water falls on their heads, but, if they have some great 
guilt weighing on them, the water swerves on one side, 
and refuses to be polluted by contact with the sinner. J 

Among the Vadas (Telugu fishermen) the Mannaru is 
an important individual who not only performs worship, 
but is consulted on many points. If a man does not 

* F. Fawcett, "Note on the Koravas," 1908. 

t " Manual of the Cuddapah District," 1875, 288. 


secure good catches of fish, he goes to the Mannaru to 
ascertain the cause of his bad luck. The Mannaru holds 
in his hand a string on which a stone is tied, and invokes 
various gods and goddesses by name. Every time a name 
is mentioned, the stone either swings to and fro like a 
pendulum, or performs a circular movement. If the 
former occurs, it is a sign that the deity whose name has 
been pronounced is the cause of the misfortune, and must 
be propitiated in a suitable manner. 

The Nomad Bauris or Bawariyas, who commit robberies 
and manufacture counterfeit coin, keep with them a small 
quantity of wheat and sandal seeds in a tin or brass case, 
which they call devakadana or god's grain, and a tuft of 
peacock's feathers. They are very superstitious, and do 
not embark on any enterprise without first ascertaining by 
omens whether it will be attended with success or not. 
This they do by taking at random a small quantity of 
grains out of the devakadana, and counting the number 
thereof, the omen being considered good or bad according 
as the number is odd or even.* A gang of Donga 
Dasaris, before starting on a thieving expedition, proceed 
to the jungle near their village in the early part of the 
night, worship their favourite goddesses, Huligavva and 
Ellamma, and sacrifice a sheep or fowl before them. 
They place one of their turbans on the head of the animal 
as soon as its head falls on the ground. If the turban 
turns to the right it is considered a good sign, the goddess 
having permitted them to proceed on the expedition ; if 
to the left they return home. Hanuman (the monkey 
god) is also consulted as to such expeditions. They go 
to a Hanuman temple, and, after worshipping him, 
garland him with a wreath of flowers. The garland hangs 

* M. Paupa Rao Naidu, "The Criminal Tribes of India," Madras, 
1907, No. 3. 


on both sides of the neck. If any of the flowers on the 
right side drop down first, it is regarded as a permission 
granted by the god to start on a plundering expedition ; 
and, conversely, an expedition is never undertaken if any 
flower happens to drop from the left side first.* The 
Kalians are said by Mr F. S. Mullalyt to consult the 
deity before starting on depredations. Two flowers, the 
one red and the other white, are placed before the idol, 
a symbol of their god Kalla Alagar, The white flower is 
the emblem of success. A child of tender years is told 
to pluck a petal of one of the two flowers, and the success 
of the undertaking rests upon the choice made by the 
child. The Pulluvan astrologers of Malabar sometimes 
calculate beforehand the result of a project in which they 
are engaged, by placing before the god two bouquets of 
flowers, one red, the other white, of which a child picks 
out one with its eyes closed. Selection of the white 
bouquet predicts auspicious results, of the red the reverse. 
In the same way, when the Kammalans (Tamil artisans) 
appoint their Anjivittu Nattamaikkaran to preside over 
them, five men selected from each of the five divisions 
meet at the temple of the caste goddess, Kamakshi 
Amman. The names of the five men are written on five 
slips of paper, which, together with some blank slips, are 
thrown before the shrine of the goddess. A child, taken 
at random from the assembled crowd, is made to pick up 
the slips, and he whose name turns up first is proclaimed 
Anjivittu Nattamaikkaran. 

Eclipses are regarded as precursors of evil, which must, 
if possible, be averted. Concerning the origin thereof, 
according to tradition in Malabar, Mr Gopal Panikkar 
writes as follows % : — 

* T. M. Natesa Sastri, Calcutta Review, 190.?) cxxi. 50I'. 

t " Notes on the Criminal Classes of the Madras Presidency," 1892,90. 


"Tradition says that, when an eclipse takes place, 
Rahu the huge serpent is devouring the sun or moon, 
as the case may be. An eclipse being thus the decease 
of one of those heavenly bodies, people must, of necessity, 
observe pollution for the period during which the eclipse 
lasts. When the monster spits out the body, the eclipse 
is over. Food and drink taken during an eclipse possess 
poisonous properties, and people therefore abstain from 
eating and drinking until the eclipse is over. They bathe 
at the end of the eclipse, so as to get rid of the pollution. 
Any one shutting himself up from exposure may be 
exempted from this obligation to take a bath." 

Deaths from drowning are not unknown in Madras 
at times of eclipse, when Hindus bathe in the sea, and 
get washed away by the surf. It is said * that, before 
an eclipse, the people prepare their drums, etc., to 
frighten the giant, lest he should eat up the moon entirely. 
Images of snakes are offered to the deity on days of 
eclipse by Brahmans on whose star day the eclipse falls, 
to appease the wrath of the terrible Rahu. It is noted 
by Mr S. M. Natesa Sastrif that "the eclipse must take 
place on some asterism or other, and, if that asterism 
happens to be that in which any Hindu was born, he has 
to perform some special ceremonies to absolve himself from 
impending evil. He makes a plate of gold or silver, or of 
palm leaf, according to his means, and ties it on his fore- 
head with Sanskrit verses inscribed on it. He sits with 
this plate for some time, performs certain ceremonies, bathes 
with the plate untied, and presents it to a Brahman with 
some fee, ranging from four annas to several thousands 
of rupees. The belief that an eclipse is a calamity to the 
sun or moon is such a strong Hindu belief, that no 

* Letters from Madras, 1843. 

t " Hindu Feasts, Fasts, and Ceremonies," Madras, 1903, 32-3. 


marriage takes place in the month in which an eclipse 

I gather* that, "during an eclipse, many of the people 
retire into their houses, and remain behind closed doors 
until the evil hour has passed. The time is in all respects 
inauspicious, and no work begun or completed during this 
period can meet with success ; indeed, so great is the dread, 
that no one would think of initiating any important work 
at this time. More especially is it fatal to women who are 
pregnant, for the evil will fall upon the unborn babe, 
and, in cases of serious malformation or congenital 
lameness, the cause is said to be that the mother looked 
on an eclipse. Women, therefore, not only retire into 
the house, but, in order that they may be further pro- 
tected from the evil, they burn horn shavings. The evils 
of an eclipse are not limited to human beings, but cattle 
and crops also need protection from the malignant spirits 
which are supposed to be abroad. In order that the cattle 
may be preserved, they are as far as possible taken indoors, 
and especially those which have young calves ; and, to 
make assurance doubly sure, their horns are smeared with 
chunam (lime). The crops are protected by procuring 
ashes from the potter's field, which seem to be specially 
potent against evil spirits. With these ashes images 
are made, and placed on the four sides of the field. 
Comets, too, are looked upon as omens of evil." 

When a person is about to occupy a new house, he 
takes particular care to see that the planet Venus does 
not face him as he enters it. With this star before him, 
he sometimes postpones the occupation, or, if he is obliged 
to enter, he reluctantly does so through the back-door. 

On the day of the capture of Seringaptam, which, 
being the last day of a lunar month, was inauspicious, 
* Madras Weekly Mail, 15th October, 1908. 


the astrologer repeated the unfavourable omen to Tipu 
Sultan, who was slain in the course of the battle. It is 
recorded* that '*to different Bramins he gave a black 
buffalo, a milch buffalo, a male buffalo, a black she- 
goat, a jacket of coarse black cloth, a cap of the same 
material, ninety rupees, and an iron pot filled with oil ; 
and, previous to the delivery of this last article, he held his 
head over the pot for the purpose of seeing the image of his 
face ; a ceremony used in Hindostan to avert misfortune." 

The time at which the address of welcome by the 
Madras Municipal Corporation to Sir Arthur Lawley 
on his taking over the Governorship of Madras was 
changed from 12-30 p.m. to i p.m. on a Wednesday, as 
the time originally fixed fell within the period of 
Rahukalam, which is an inauspicious hour on that day. 

It is considered by a Hindu unlucky to get shaved for 
ceremonial purposes in the months of Adi, Purattasi, 
Margali, and Masi, and, in the remaining months, Sunday, 
Tuesday, and Saturday should be avoided. Further, the 
star under which a man was born has to be taken into 
consideration, and it may happen that an auspicious day 
for being shaved does not occur for some weeks. It is on 
this account that orthodox Hindus are sometimes compelled 
to go about with unkempt chins. Even for anointing the 
body, auspicious and inauspicious days are prescribed. 
Thus, anointing on Sunday causes loss of beauty, on 
Monday brings increase of riches, and on Thursday loss of 
intellect. If a person is obliged to anoint himself on 
Sunday, he should put a bit of the root of oleander 
{Nerium) in the oil, and heat it before applying it. This 
is supposed to avert the evil influences. Similarly on 
Tuesday dry earth, on Thursday roots of Cynodou Dactylon^ 
and on Friday ashes must be used. 

* Rev. E. W. Thompson, "The Last Siege of Seringapatam," 1907. 


It is considered auspicious if a girl attains puberty on 
a Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, and the 
omens vary according to the month in which the first 
menstrual period occurs. Thus the month of Vaiyasi 
ensures prosperity, Ani male issue, Masi happiness, 
Margali well-behaved children, Punguni long life and 
many children. At the first menstrual ceremony of a 
Tiyan girl in Malabar, her aunt, or, if she is married, her 
husband's sister, pours gingelly {Sesamum) oil over her 
head, on the top of which a gold fanam (coin) has been 
placed. The oil is poured from a little cup made from a 
leaf of the jak tree {ArtocaTpus intcgrifolid)^ flows over the 
forehead, and is received with the fanam in a dish. It is a 
good omen if the coin falls with the obverse upwards. 

If a Brahman woman loses her tali (marriage badge), 
it is regarded as a bad omen for her husband. As a 
Deva-dasi (dancing-girl) can never become a widow, the 
beads in her tali are considered to bring good luck to those 
who wear them. And some people send the tali required 
for a marriage to a Deva-dasi, who prepares the string for 
it, and attaches to it black beads from her own tali. A 
Deva-dasi is also deputed to walk at the head of Hindu 
marriage processions. Married women do not like to do 
this, as they are not proof against evil omens, which the 
procession may come across, and it is believed that Deva- 
dasis, to whom widowhood is unknown, possess the power 
of warding off the effects of unlucky omens. It may be 
remarked, en passant^ that Deva-dasis are not at the present 
day so much patronised at Hindu marriages as in former 
days. Much is due in this direction to the progress of 
enlightened ideas, which have of late been strongly put 
forward by Hindu social reformers. General Burton 
narrates * how a civilian of the old school built a house at 

* " An Indian Olio," 98. 


Bhavani, and established a corps de ballet^ i.e., a set of 
nautch girls, whose accomplishments extended to singing 
God Save the King, and this was kept up by their 
descendants, so that, when he visited the place in 1852, 
he was '* greeted by the whole party, bedizened in all their 
finery, and squalling the National Anthem." With this 
may be contrasted a circular from a modern European 
official, which states that "during my jamabandy (land 
revenue settlement) tour, people have sometimes been kind 
enough to arrange singing or dancing parties, and, as it 
would have been discourteous to decline to attend what had 
cost money to arrange, I have accepted the compliment in 
the spirit in which it was offered. I should, however, 
be glad if you would let it be generally known that I am 
entirely in accord with what is known as the anti-nautch 
movement in regard to such performances." 

It was unanimously decided, in 1905, by the Executive 
Committee of the Prince and Princess of Wales' reception 
committee, that there should be no performance by nautch 
girls at the entertainment to their Royal Highnesses at 

The marriage ceremonies of Are Dammaras (Marathi- 
speaking acrobats) are supervised by an old Basavi woman, 
and the marriage badge is tied round the bride's neck by a 
Basavi (public woman dedicated to the deity). 

When a marriage is contemplated among the Idaiyans 
(Tamil shepherds) of Coimbatore, the parents of the 
prospective bride and bridegroom go to the temple, and 
throw before the idol a red and white flower, each wrapped 
in a betel leaf. A small child is then told to pick up one of 
the leaves. If the one selected contains the white flower, 
it is considered auspicious, and the marriage will be 
contracted. The Devanga weavers, before settling the 
marriage of a girl, consult some village goddess or the 


tribal goddess Chaudeswari, and watch the omens. A 
hzard chirping on the right is good, and on the left bad. 
Sometimes, red and white flowers wrapped in green leaves 
are thrown in front of the idol, and the omen is considered 
good or bad, according to the flower which a child picks 
up. Among the hill Uralis of Coimbatore, a flower is 
placed on the top of a stone or figure representing the 
tribal goddess, and, after worship, it is addressed in the 
words: "Oh! swamil (goddess), drop the flower to the 
right if the marriage is going to be propitious, and to 
the left if otherwise." Should the flower remain on the 
image without falling either way, it is greeted as a very 
happy omen. When a marriage is in contemplation 
among the Agamudaiyans (Tamil cultivators), some close 
relations of the young man proceed to some distance 
northward, and wait for omens. If these are auspicious, 
they are satisfied. Some, instead of so doing, go to a 
temple, and seek the omens either by placing flowers on 
the idol, and watching the directions in which they fall, or 
by picking up a flower from a large number strewn in front 
of the idol. If the flower picked up, and the one thought 
of, are of the same colour, it is regarded as a good omen. 
Among the Gudigaras (wood-carvers) of South Canara, 
the parents of the couple go to a temple, and receive from 
the priest some flowers which have been used in worship. 
These are counted, and, if their number is even, the 
match is arranged. At a marriage among the Malaialis 
of the Kollaimalai hills, the garlands with which the 
bridal couple are adorned, are thrown into a well after the 
tali has been tied on the bride's neck. If they float 
together, it is an omen that the two will love each other. 

Among the Telugu Janappans (gunny-bag makers), 
on the day fixed for the betrothal, those assembled wait 
silently listening for the chirping of a lizard, which is 


an auspicious sign. It is said that the match is broken 
off if the chirping is not heard. If the omen proves 
auspicious, a small bundle of nine to twelve kinds of 
pulses and grain is given by the bridegroom's father to 
the father of the bride. This is preserved, and examined 
several days after the marriage. If the pulses and grain 
are in good condition, it is a sign that the newly married 
couple will have a prosperous career. During the 
marriage ceremonies of the Muhammadan Daknis or 
Deccanis, two big pots, filled with water, are placed near 
the milk-post. They are kept for forty days, and then 
examined. If the water remains sweet, and does not 
"teem with vermin," it is regarded as a good omen. 
The seed grains, too, which, as among many Hindu 
castes, were sown at the time of the wedding, should by 
this time have developed into healthy seedlings. At a 
Rona (Oriya cultivator) wedding, the Desari who officiates 
ties to the ends of the cloths of the bridal couple a new 
cloth, to which a quarter-anna piece is attached, betel 
leaves and areca nuts, and seven grains of rice. Towards 
the close of the marriage rites on the third day, the 
rice is examined, to see if it is in a good state of pre- 
servation, and its condition is regarded as an omen for 
good or evil. 

On the occasion of a wedding among the Badagas of 
the Nllgiris, a procession goes before dawn on the 
marriage day to the forest, where two sticks of Mimusops 
hexandra are collected, to do duty as the milk-posts. The 
early hour is selected, to avoid the chance of coming 
across inauspicious objects. At the close of the 
Agamudaiyan marriage ceremonies, the twig of Erythrina 
indica or Odina wodier, of which the milk-post was made, 
is planted. If it takes root and grows, it is regarded as 
a favourable omen. At a Palli (Tamil cultivator) wedding 



two lamps, called kuda vilakku (pot light) and alankara 
vilakku (ornamental light), are placed by the side of the 
milk-post. The former consists of a lighted wick in an 
earthenware tray placed on a pot. It is considered an 
unlucky omen if it goes out before the conclusion of the 

Prior to the betrothal ceremony of the Kammas (Telugu 
cultivators), a near relation of the future bridegroom 
proceeds with a party to the home of the future bride. 
On the way thither, they look for omens, such as the 
crossing of birds in an auspicious direction. Immediately 
on the occurrence of a favourable omen, they^ burn 
camphor, and break a cocoanut, which must split in 
two with clean edges. One half is sent to the would-be 
bridegroom, and the other taken to the bride's house. 
When this is reached, she demands the sagunam (omen) 
cocoanut. If the first cocoanut does not split properly, 
others are broken till the desired result is obtained. 

In the Telugu country, the services of a member of 
the Boya caste are required if a Brahman wishes to 
perform Vontigadu, a ceremony by which he hopes 
to induce favourable auspices, under which to celebrate 
a marriage. The story has it that Vontigadu was a 
destitute Boya, who died of starvation. On the morning 
of the day on which the ceremony, for which favourable 
auspices are required, is performed, a Boya is invited to 
the house. He is given a present of gingelly {Sesamum) 
oil, wherewith to anoint himself. This done, he returns, 
carrying in his hand a dagger, on the point of which 
a lime has been stuck. He is directed to the cowshed, 
and there given a good meal. After finishing the meal, 
he steals from the shed, and dashes out of the house, 
uttering a piercing yell, and waving his dagger. He 
on no account looks behind him. The inmates of the 


house follow for some distance, throwing water wherever 
he has trodden. By this means, all possible evil omens 
for the coming ceremony are done away with. 

A curious mock marriage ceremony is celebrated among 
Brahmans, when an individual marries a third wife. It 
is believed that a third marriage is very inauspicious, 
and that the bride will become a widow. To prevent 
this mishap, the man is made to marry the arka plant 
{Calotropis gigantea), which grows luxuriantly in waste- 
lands, and the real marriage thus becomes the fourth. 
The bridegroom, accompanied by a Brahman priest and 
another Brahman, repairs to a spot where this plant is 
growing. It is decorated with a cloth and a piece of 
string, and symbolised into the sun. All the ceremonies, 
such as making homam (sacred fire), tying the tali 
(marriage badge), etc., are performed as at a regular 
marriage, and the plant is cut down. On rathasapthami 
day, an orthodox Hindu should bathe his head and 
shoulders with arka leaves in propitiation of Surya (the 
sun). The leaves are also used during the worship of 
ancestors by some Brahmans. Among the Tangalan 
Paraiyans, if a young man dies before he is married, 
a ceremony called kannikazhital (removing bachelorhood) 
is performed. Before the corpse is laid on the bier, a 
garland of arka flowers is placed round its neck, and 
balls of mud from a gutter are laid on the head, knees, 
and other parts of the body. In some places, a variant 
of the ceremony consists in the erection of a mimic 
m.arriage booth, which is covered with leaves of the arka 
plant, flowers of which are placed round the neck as 
a garland. Adulterers were, in former times, seated on a 
donkey, with their face to the tail, and marched through 
the village. The public disgrace was enhanced by placing 
a garland of the despised arka leaves on their head. 


Uppiliyan women convicted of immorality are said to 
be garlanded with arka flowers, and made to carry a 
basket of mud round the village. A Konga Vellala man, 
who has been found guilty of undue intimacy with a 
widow, is readmitted to the caste by being taken to the 
village common, where he is beaten with an arka stick, 
and by providing a black sheep for a feast. When a 
Kuruvikkaran man has to submit to trial by ordeal, 
seven arka leaves are tied to his palms, and a piece of 
red - hot iron is placed thereon. His innocence is 
established, if he is able to carry it while he takes seven 
long strides. The juice of the arka plant is a favourite 
agent in the hands of suicides. 

At a Brahman wedding the bridegroom takes a blade 
of the sacred dharba grass, passes it between the eye- 
brows of the bride and throws it away saying, ' ' With 
this grass I remove the influence of any bad mark thou 
mayest possess, which is likely to cause widowhood." 

There is a Tamil proverb relating to the selection of 
a wife, to the effect that curly hair gives food, thick hair 
brings milk, and very stiff hair destroys a family. As 
a preliminary to marriage among the Kurubas (Canarese 
shepherds), the bridegroom's father observes certain curls 
(suli) on the head of the proposed bride. Some of these 
are believed to forebode prosperity, and others misery 
to the family into which the girl enters by marriage. 
They are, therefore, very cautious in selecting only such 
girls as possess curls of good fortune. One of the good 
curls is the bashingam on the forehead, and bad ones 
are the peyanakallu at the back of the head, and the 
edirsuli near the right temple.* By the Pallis (Tamil 
cultivators) a curl on the forehead is considered as an 
indication that the girl will become a widow, and one 
* ' Manual of the North Arcot District " 1895, i. 223-4. 


on the back of the head portends the death of the eldest 
brother of her husband. By the Tamil Maravans, a 
curl on the forehead resembling the head of a snake is 
regarded as an evil omen. 

A woman, pregnant for the first time, should not 
see a temple car adorned with figures of a lion, or look 
at it when it is being dragged along with the image of 
the god seated in it. If she does, the tradition is that 
she will give birth to a monster. 

In some places, before a woman is confined, the room 
in which her confinement is to take place is smeared with 
cow-dung, and, in the room at the outer gate, small wet 
cow-dung cakes are stuck on the wall, and covered with 
margosa {Melia Azadirachtd) leaves and cotton seeds. 
These are supposed to have a great power in averting 
evil spirits, and preventing harm to the newly-born babe 
or the lying-in woman.* In the Telugu country, it is 
the custom among some castes, e.g.y the Kapus and 
Gamallas, to place twigs of Balanites Roxburghii or 
Calotropis gigantea (arka) on the floor or in the roof of 
the lying-in chamber. Sometimes a garland of old shoes 
is hung up on the door-post of the chamber. A fire is 
kindled, into which pieces of old leather, hair, nails, 
horns, hoofs, and bones of animals are thrown, in the 
belief that the smoke arising therefrom will protect the 
mother and child against evil spirits. Among some classes, 
when a woman is pregnant, her female friends assemble, 
pile up before her door a quantity of rice-husk, and set 
fire to it. To one door-post they tie an old shoe, and to 
the other a bunch of tulsi {Ocimum sanctum)^ in order to 
prevent the entry of any demon. A bitch is brought in, 
painted, and marked in the way that the women daily 
mark their own foreheads. Incense is burnt, and an 
* S. M. Natesa Sastri, " Ind. Ant.," 1889, xviii. 287. 


oblation placed before it. The woman then makes 
obeisance to it, and makes a meal of curry and rice, on 
which cakes are placed. If there is present any woman 
who has not been blessed with children, she seizes some 
of the cakes, in the hope that, by so doing, she may 
ere long have a child.* In some places, when a woman 
is in labour, her relations keep on measuring out rice 
into a measure close to the lying-in room, in the belief 
that delivery will be accelerated thereby. Sometimes a 
gun is fired off in an adjacent room with the same object, 
and I have heard of a peon (orderly), whose wife was in 
labour, borrowing his master's gun, to expedite matters. 

Some Hindus in Madras believe that it would be 
unlucky for a newly-married couple to visit the museum, 
as their offspring would be deformed as the result of 
the mother having gazed on the skeletons and stuffed 

Twins are sometimes objects of superstition, especially 
if they are of different sexes, and the male is born first. 
The occurrence of such an event is regarded as foreboding 
misfortune, which can only be warded off by marrying 
the twins to one another, and leaving them to their fate 
in the jungle. Cases of this kind have, however, it is 
said, not been heard of within recent times. 

There is a proverb that a child born with the umbilical 
cord round the body will be a curse to the caste. If 
a child is born with the cord round its neck like a 
garland, it is believed to be inauspicious for its uncle, 
who is not allowed to see it for ten days, or even longer, 
and then a propitiatory ceremony has to be performed. 
By the Koravas the birth of a child with the cord round 
its neck is believed to portend the death of the father or 
maternal uncle. This unpleasant effect is warded off by 
* Rev. J. Cain, " Ind. Ant.," 1875, iv. 198. 


the father or the uncle killing a fowl, and wearing its 
entrails round his neck, and afterwards burying them 
along with the cord. In other castes it is believed that 
a child born with the cord round its neck will be a curse 
to its maternal uncle, unless a gold or silver string is 
placed on the body, and the uncle sees its image reflected 
in a vessel of oil. If the cord is entwined across the 
breast, and passes under the armpit, it is believed to 
be an unlucky omen for the father and paternal uncle. 
In such cases, some special ceremony, such as looking 
into a vessel of oil, is performed. I am informed by 
the Rev. S. Nicholson that, if a Mala (Telugu Pariah) 
child is born with the cord round its neck, a cocoanut 
is immediately offered. If the child survives, a cock is 
offered to the gods on the day on which the mother takes 
her first bath. When the cord is cut, a coin is placed 
over the navel for luck. The dried cord is highly prized 
as a remedy for sterility. The placenta is placed by 
the Malas in a pot, in which are nim {Melia Azadirachtd) 
leaves, and the whole is buried in some convenient place, 
generally the backyard. If this was not done, dogs 
or other animals might carry off the placenta, and the 
child would be of a wandering disposition. 

The birth of a Korava child on a new moon night 
is believed to augur a notorious thieving future for the 
infant. Such children are commonly named Venkatigadu 
after the god at Tirupati.* The birth of a male child 
on the day in which the constellation Rohini is visible 
portends evil to the maternal uncle ; and a female born 
under the constellation Moolam is supposed to carry 
misery with her to the house which she enters by 

Domb children in Vizagapatam are supposed to be 
* F. Fawcett, "Note on the Koravas," 1908. 


born without souls, and to be subsequently chosen as 
an abode by the soul of an ancestor. The coming of 
the ancestor is signalised by the child dropping a chicken 
bone which has been thrust into its hand, and much 
rejoicing follows among the assembled relations. 

By some Valaiyans (Tamil cultivators), the naming 
of infants is performed at the Aiyanar temple by any 
one who is under the influence of inspiration. Failing 
such a one, several flowers, each with a name attached 
to it, are thrown in front of the idol. A boy, or the 
priest, picks up one of the flowers, and the infant 
receives the name which is connected with it. In 
connection with the birth ceremonies of the Koyis of 
the Godavari district, the Rev. J. Cain writes* that, on 
the seventh day, the near relatives and neighbours 
assemble together to name the child. Having placed it 
on a cot, they put a leaf of the mowha tree {Bassia) in 
its hand, and pronounce some name which they think 
suitable. If the child closes its hand over the leaf, it 
is regarded as a sign that it acquiesces, but, if the child 
rejects the leaf or cries, they take it as a sign that they 
must choose another name, and so throw away the leaf, 
and substitute another leaf and name, until the child 
shows its approbation. 

It is noted,! in connection with the death ceremonies 
of the Kondhs, that, if a man has been killed by a 
tiger, purification is made by the sacrifice of a pig, the 
head of which is cut off with a tangi (axe) by a Pano, 
and passed between the legs of the men in the village, 
who stand in a line astraddle. It is a bad omen to him, 
if the head touches any man's legs. According to another 
account, the head of the decapitated pig is placed in a 

* "Ind. Ant.," 1876, V. 358. , 

t '* Manual of the Ganjam District," 1882, 71-2. 


stream, and, as it floats down, it has to pass between 
the legs of the villagers. If it touches the legs of any 
of them, it forebodes that he will be killed by a tiger. 

The sight of a cat, on getting out of bed, is extremely 
unlucky, and he who sees one will fail in all his under- 
takings during the day. **I faced the cat this morning," 
or '' Did you see a cat this morning?" are common sayings 
when one fails in anything. The Paraiyans are said to 
be very particular about omens, and, if, when a Paraiyan 
sets out to arrange a marriage with a certain girl, a cat 
or a valiyan (a bird) crosses his path, he will give up 
the girl. I have heard of a superstitious European police 
officer, who would not start in search of a criminal, 
because he came across a cat. 

House dogs should, if they are to bring good luck, 
possess more than eighteen visible claws. If a dog 
scratches the wall of a house, it will be broken into by 
thieves ; and, if it makes a hole in the ground within a 
cattle-shed, the cattle will be stolen. A dog approaching 
a person with a bit of shoe-leather augurs success ; with 
flesh, gain ; with a meaty bone, good luck ; with a dry 
bone, death. If a dog enters a house with wire or thread 
in its mouth, the master of the house must expect to be 
put in prison. A dog barking on the roof of a house 
during the dry weather portends an epidemic, and in 
the wet season a heavy fall of rain. There is a proverb 
" Like a dying dog climbing the roof," which is said 
of a person who is approaching his ruin. The omen 
also signifies the death of several members of the family, 
so the dog's ears and tail are cut off, and rice is steeped 
in the blood. A goat which has climbed on to the roof 
is treated in like manner, dragged round the house, or 
slaughtered. At the conclusion of the first menstrual 
ceremony of a Kappiliyan (Canarese farmer) girl, some 


food is placed near the entrance to the house, which a 
dog is allowed to eat. While so doing, it receives a 
severe beating. The more noise it makes, the better is the 
omen for the girl having a large family. If the animal 
does not howl, it is supposed that the girl will bear no 

The sight of a jackal is very lucky to one proceeding 
on an errand. Its cry to the east and north of a village 
foretells something good for the villagers, whereas the 
cry at midday means an impending calamity. If a jackal 
cries towards the south in answer to the call of another 
jackal, some one will be hung ; and, if it cries towards 
the west, some one will be drowned. A bachelor who 
sees a jackal running may expect to be married shortly. 
If the offspring of a primipara dies, it is sometimes buried 
in a place where jackals can get at it. It is believed that, 
if a jackal does not make a sumptuous meal off the corpse, 
the woman will not be blessed with more children. The 
corpses of the Koramas of Mysore are buried in a shallow 
grave, and a pot of water is placed on the mound raised 
over it. Should the spot be visited during the night by 
a pack of jackals, and the water drunk by them to slake 
their thirst after feasting on the dead body, the omen is 
accepted as a proof that the liberated spirit has fled to 
the realms of the dead, and will never trouble man, 
woman, child, or cattle. 

When a person rises in the morning, he should not 
face or see a cow's head, but should see its hinder parts. 
This is in consequence of a legend that a cow killed a 
Brahman by goring him with its horns. In some temples, 
a cow is made to stand in front of the building with its 
tail towards it, so that any one entering may see its face. 
It is said that, if a cow voids urine at the time of 
purchase, it is considered a very good omen, but, if she 


passes dung, a bad omen. The hill Kondhs will not 
cut the crops with a sickle having a serrated edge, such 
as is used by the Oriyas, but use a straight-edged knife. 
The crops, after they have been cut, are threshed by 
hand, and not with the aid of cattle. The serrated sickle 
is not used, because it produces a sound like that of 
cattle grazing, which would be unpropitious. If cattle 
were used in threshing the crop, it is believed that the 
earth-god would feel insulted by the dung and urine of 
the animals. 

A timber merchant at Calicut in Malabar is said to 
have spent more than a thousand rupees in propitiating 
the spirit of a deceased Brahman under the following 
circumstances. He had built a new house, and, on the 
morning after the kutti puja (house-warming) ceremony, 
his wife and children were coming to occupy it. Just 
as they were entering the grounds, a cow ran against 
one of the children, and knocked it down. This augured 
evil, and, in a few days, the child was attacked by 
smallpox. One child after another caught the disease, 
and at last the man's wife also contracted it. They all 
recovered, but the wife was laid up with some uterine 
disorder. An astrologer was sent for, and said that the 
site on which the house was built was once the property 
of a Brahman, whose spirit still haunted it, and must 
be appeased. Expensive ceremonies were performed by 
Brahmans for a fortnight. The house was sold to a 
Brahman priest for a nominal price. A gold image of 
the deceased Brahman was made, and, after the purifica- 
tion ceremonies had been carried out, taken to the sacred 
shrine at Ramesvaram, where arrangements were made 
to have daily worship performed to it. The house, in 
its purified state, was sold back by the Brahman priest. 
The merchant's wife travelled by train to Madras, to 


undergo treatment at the Maternity Hospital. The 
astrologer predicted that the displeasure of the spirit would 
be exhibited on the way by the breaking of dishes and 
by furniture catching fire — a strange prediction, because 
the bed on which the woman was lying caught fire by 
a spark from the engine. After the spirit had been thus 
propitiated, there was peace in the house. 

It is noted * that, in the middle of the threshold of 
nearly all the gateways of the ruined fortifications round 
the Bellary villages may be noticed a roughly carved 
cylindrical or conical stone, something like a lingam. 
This is the boddu-rayi, literally the navel-stone, and so 
the middle stone. It was planted there when the fort was 
first built, and is affectionately regarded as being the 
boundary of the village site. Once a year, in May, 
just before the sowing season commences, a ceremony 
takes place in connection with it. Reverence is first 
made to the bullocks of the village, and in the evening 
they are driven through the gateway past the boddu- 
rayi, with tom-toms, flutes, and other kinds of music. 
The Barike (village servant) next does puja (worship) 
to the stone, and then a string of mango leaves is tied 
across the gateway above it. The villagers now form 
sides, one party trying to drive the bullocks through 
the gate, and the other trying to keep them out. The 
greatest uproar and confusion naturally follow, and, in the 
midst of the turmoil, some bullock or other eventually 
breaks through the guardians of the gate, and gains the 
village. If that first bullock is a red one, the red grains 
on the red soil will flourish in the coming season. If he 
is white, white crops, such as cotton and white cholam, 
will prosper. If he is red and white, both kinds will do 

* "Gazetteer of the Bellary District," 1904, i. 61. 


Various Oriya castes worship the goddess Lakshmi 
on Thursdays, in the month of November, which are 
called Lakshi varam, or Lakshmi's day. The goddess 
is represented by a basket filled with grain, whereon some 
place a hair-ball which has been vomited by a cow. The 
ball is called gaya panghula, and is usually one or two 
inches in diameter. The owner of a cow which has 
vomited such a ball, regards it as a propitious augury for 
the prosperity of his family. A feast is held on the day 
on which the ball is vomited, and, after the ball has been 
worshipped, it is carefully wrapped up, and kept in a box, 
in which it remains till it is required for further worship. 
Some people believe that the ball continues to grow year 
by year, and regard this as a very good sign. Bulls are 
said not to vomit the balls, and only very few cows do so. 

" Throughout India," Mr J. D. E. Holmes writes,* '< but 
more especially in the Southern Presidency, among the 
native population, the value of a horse or ox principally 
depends on the existence and situation of certain hair- 
marks on the body of the animal. These hair-marks are 
formed by the changes in the direction in which the hair 
grows at certain places, and, according to their shape, are 
called a crown, ridge, or feather mark. The relative 
position of these marks is supposed to indicate that the 
animal will bring good luck to the owner and his relatives. 
There is a saying that a man may face a rifle and escape, 
but he cannot avoid the luck, good or evil, foretold by 
hair-marks. So much are the people influenced by these 
omens that they seldom keep an animal with unlucky 
marks, and would not allow their mares to be covered 
by a stallion having unpropitious marks." 

It is recorded by Bishop Whitehead f that "we went 

to see the Maharaja (of Mysore) at his stables, and 

* Madras Agricult. Bull., 1900, ii. No. 42. 
t Madras Dioc. Mag., igo8. 


he showed us his fine stud of horses. Among them 
was the State horse, which is only used for religious 
ceremonies, and is ridden only by the Maharaja himself. 
It is pure white, without spot or blemish, and has the five 
lucky marks. This horse came from Kathiawar, and is 
now about twenty years old. The Maharaja is trying to 
get another, to replace it when it dies. But it is not easy 
to get one with the unusual points required." 

Two deaths occurring in a family in quick succession, 
were once believed to be the result of keeping an unlucky 
horse in the stable. I have heard of a Eurasian police 
officer, who attributed the theft of five hundred rupees, his 
official transfer to an unhealthy district, and other strokes 
of bad luck, to the purchase of a horse with unlucky 
curls. All went well after he had got rid of the 

From a recent note on beliefs about the bull,* I gather 
that "Manu enjoins a grihasta or householder to always 
travel with beasts which are well broken in, swift, endowed 
with lucky marks, and perfect in colour and form, without 
urging them much with the goad. Marks are accounted 
lucky if they appear in certain forms, and at certain spots. 
One of these marks is usually known as sudi in Telugu, 
and suli in Tamil. A sudi is nothing but a whorl or 
circlet of hair, a properly formed sudi being perfectly 
round in form, and nearly resembling the sudivalu, the 
chakrayudha of Vishnu, which is a short circular weapon 
commonly known as the discus of Vishnu. Every ox 
should have at least two of these circlets or twists of 
hair, one on the face, and one on the back, right about its 
centre. Two curls may occur on the face, but they should 
not be one above the other, in which case they are known 
* Madras Weekly Mail, 7th October 1909. 


as kode mel kode, or umbrella above umbrella. The pur- 
chaser of such a bull, it is believed, will soon have some 
mishap in his house. Some, however, hold that this curl 
is not really so bad as it is supposed to be. If the curls 
are side by side, they are accounted lucky. In that case 
they are known as damara suli, or double kettle-drum 
circlet, from the kettle-drums placed on either side of 
Brahmani bulls in temple processions. It is sometimes 
known as the kalyana (marriage) suli, because such a 
kettle-drum is often used in marriage processions. A curl 
on the hump is held to be a very good one, bringing 
prosperity to the purchaser. It is known as the kirita suli, 
or the crown circlet. The dewlaps should have a curl on 
either side, or none. A curl on only one side is described 
as not lucky. On the back of the animal, a curl must 
be perfectly round. If it is elongated, and stretches on 
one side, it is known as the padai suli, or the bier circlet. 
Kattiri suli, or the scissor circlet, is found usually in the 
region of the belly, and is an unlucky sign. On the body 
is sometimes found the puran suli, the circlet named after 
the centipede from its supposed resemblance to it. On the 
legs is often found the velangu suli, or chain circlet, from 
its being like a chain bound round the legs. Both these 
are said to be bad marks, and bulls having them are in- 
variably hard to sell. Attempts at erasure of unlucky 
marks are frequently noticed, for the reason that an animal 
with a bad mark is scarcely, if ever, sold to advantage. 
One of the most common and most effective ways of 
erasing an unlucky mark is to brand it pretty deep, so 
that the hair disappears, and the curl is no more observ- 
able. Animals so branded are regarded with considerable 
suspicion, and it is often difficult to secure purchasers 
for them." 


The following are some of the marks on horses and 
cattle recorded by Mr Holmes : * — 

(a) Horses 

1. Deobund (having control over evil spirits), also 
termed devuman or devumani, said by Muhammadans 
to represent the Prophet's finger, and by Hindus to 
represent a temple bell. This mark is a ridge, one to 
three inches long, situated between the throat and counter 
along the line of the trachea. It is the most lucky mark 
a horse can possess. It is compared to the sun, and, 
therefore, when it is present, none of the evil stars can 
shine, and all unlucky omens are overruled. 

2. Khorta-gad (peg-driver), or khila-gad, is a ridge 
oi hair directed downwards on one or both hind-legs. 
It is said that no horse in the stable will be sold, so 
long as a horse with this mark is kept. 

3. Badi (fetter), a ridge of hair directed upwards on 
one or both forearms on the outer side, and said to 
indicate that the owner of the animal will be sent to 


4. Thanni (teat). Teat-like projections on the sheath 
of the male are considered unlucky. 

(d) Cattle 

5. Bhashicam suli is a crown on the forehead above 
the line of the eyes, named after the chaplet worn by 
bride and bridegroom during the marriage ceremony. 
If the purchaser be a bachelor or widower, this mark 
indicates that he will marry soon. If the purchaser be 
a married man, he will either have the misfortune to 

* Loc. cit. 


lose his wife and marry again, or the good fortune to 
obtain two wives. 

6. Mukkanti suli. Three crowns on the forehead, 
arranged in the form of a triangle, said to represent the 
three eyes of Siva, of which the one on the forehead will, 
if opened, burn up all things within the range of vision. 

7. Padai suli. Two ridges of hair on the back on 
either side of the middle line, indicating that the purchaser 
will soon need a coffin. 

8. Tattu suli. A crown situated on the back between 
the points of the hips, indicating that any business under- 
taken by the purchaser will fail. 

9. A bullock with numerous spots over the body, like 
a deer, is considered very lucky. 

The following quaint omen is recorded by Bishop 
Whitehead.* At a certain village, when a pig is 
sacrificed to the village goddess Angalamman, its neck 
is first cut slightly, and the blood allowed to flow on to 
some boiled rice placed on a plantain leaf, and then the 
rice soaked in its own blood is given to the pig to eat. 
If the pig eats it, the omen is good, if not, the omen 
is bad ; but, in any case, the pig has its head cut off 
by the pujari (priest). 

If a Brahmani kite {Haliastur indus), when flying, is 
seen carrying something in its beak, the omen is con- 
sidered very auspicious. The sight of this bird on a 
Sunday morning is also auspicious, so, on this day, 
people may be seen throwing pieces of mutton or lumps 
of butter to it.f 

If an owl takes refuge in a house, the building is 
at once deserted, the doors are closed, and the house is 

* Madras Museum Bull., 190?) v., No. 3, 173. 

t Many of the bird superstitions here recorded were published in 
an article in the Madras Mail. 



not occupied for six months, when an expiatory sacrifice 
must be performed. Brahmans are fed, and the house 
can only be re-entered after the proper hour has been 
fixed upon. This superstition only refers to a thatched 
house ; a terraced house need not be vacated.* Ill-luck 
will follow, should an owl sit on the housetop, or perch 
on the bough of a tree near the house. One screech 
forebodes death ; two screeches forebode success in any 
approaching undertaking ; three, the addition of a girl 
to the family by marriage ; four, a disturbance ; five, that 
the hearer will travel. Six screeches foretell the coming 
of guests ; seven, mental distress ; eight, sudden death ; 
and nine signify favourable results. A species of owl, 
called pullu, is a highly dreaded bird. It is supposed 
to cause all kinds of illness to children, resulting in 
emaciation. At the sound of the screeching, children 
are taken into a room, to avoid its furtive and injurious 
gaze. Various propitiatory ceremonies are performed by 
specialists to secure its good - will. Amulets are worn 
by children as a preventive against its evil influences. 
To warn off the unwelcome intruder, broken pots, painted 
with black and white dots, are set up on housetops. In 
the Bellary district, the flat roofs of many houses may 
be seen decked with rags, fluttering from sticks, piles 
of broken pots, and so forth. These are to scare away 
owls, which, it is said, sometimes vomit up blood, and 
sometimes milk. If they sit on a house and bring up 
blood, it is bad for the inmates ; if milk, good. But the 
risk of the vomit turning out to be blood is apparently 
more feared than the off chance of its proving to be 
milk is hoped for, and it is thought best to be on the 
safe side, and keep the owl at a distance. f The Kondhs 

* " Manual of the Cuddapah District," 1875, 293. 
t "Gazetteer of the Bellary District," 1904, i. 61. 


believe that, if an owl hoots over the roof of a house, 
or on a tree close thereto, a death will occur in the 
family at an early date. If the bird hoots close to a 
village, but outside it, the death of one of the villagers 
will follow. For this reason, it is pelted with stones, 
and driven off. The waist-belt of a Koraga, whom I 
saw at Udipi in South Canara, was made of owl bones. 
Should a crow come near the house, and caw in its 
usual rapid raucous tones, it means that calamity is 
impending. But, should the bird indulge in its peculiar 
prolonged guttural note, happiness will ensue. If a crow 
keeps on cawing incessantly at a house, it is believed to 
foretell the coming of a guest. The belief is so strong 
that some housewives prepare more food than is required 
for the family. There is also an insect called virunthoo 
poochee, or guest insect. If crows are seen fighting in 
front of a house, news of a death will shortly be heard. 
In some places, if a crow enters a house, it must be 
vacated for not less than three months, and, before it can 
be re-occupied, a purification ceremony must be performed, 
and a number of Brahmans fed. Among the poorer 
classes, who are unable to incur this expense, it is not 
uncommon to allow a house which has been thus polluted 
to fall into ruins.* In Malabar, there is a belief that ill- 
luck will result if, on certain days, a crow soils one's person 
or clothes. The evil can only be removed by bathing with 
the clothes on, and propitiating Brahmans. On other 
days, the omen is a lucky one. On sradh (memorial) days, 
pindams (balls of cooked rice) are offered to the crows. 
If they do not touch them, the ceremony is believed not 
to have been properly performed, and the wishes of the 
dead man are not satisfied. If the crows, after repeated 
trials, fail to eat the rice, the celebrant makes up his mind 
* " Manual of the Cuddapah District," 1875, 293. 


to satisfy these wishes, and the crows are then supposed 
to relish the balls. On one occasion, my Brahman 
assistant was in camp with me on the Palni hills, the 
higher altitudes of which are uninhabited by crows, and 
he had perforce to march down to the plains, in order to 
perform the annual ceremony in memory of his deceased 
father. On another occasion, a Brahman who was staying 
on the Palni hills telegraphed to the village of Periakulam 
for two crows, which duly arrived confined in a cage. 
The sradh ceremony was performed, and the birds were 
then set at liberty. On the last day of the death ceremonies 
of the Oddes (navvies), some rice is cooked, and placed on 
an arka {Calotropis giganted) leaf as an offering to the 
crows. The arka plant, which grows luxuriantly on 
waste lands, is, it may be noted, used by Brahmans for 
the propitiation of rishis (sages) and pithrus (ancestors).* 
For seven days after the death of a Paniyan of Malabar, 
a little rice gruel is placed near the grave by the Chemmi 
(priest), who claps his hands as a signal to the evil spirits 
in the vicinity, who, in the shape of a pair of crows, are 
supposed to partake of the food, which is hence called 
kaka conji, or crow's gruel. On the third day after the 
death of a Bedar (Canarese cultivator), a woman brings to 
the graveside some luxuries in the way of food, which is 
mixed up in a winnowing tray into three portions, and 
placed in front of three stones set over the head, abdomen, 
and legs of the deceased, for crows to partake of. On the 
sixth day after the death of a Korava, the chief mourner 
kills a fowl, and mixes its blood with rice. This he places, 
with betel leaves and areca nuts, near the grave. If it is 
carried off by crows, everything is considered to have been 
settled satisfactorily. When a jungle Urali has been 
excommunicated from his caste, he must kill a sheep or 
* See Thurston, "Ethnographic Notes in Southern India," 1907, 44-7. 


goat before the elders, and mark his forehead with its 
blood. He then gives a feast to the assembly, and puts 
part of the food on the roof of his house. If the crows eat 
it, he is received back into the caste. A native clerk some 
time ago took leave in anticipation of sanction, on receipt 
of news of a death in his family at a distant town. His 
excuse was that his elder brother had, on learning that his 
son had seen two crows in coitu, sent him a post-card 
stating that the son was dead. The boy turned out to be 
alive, but the card, it was explained, was sent owing to 
a superstitious belief that, if a person sees two crows 
engaged in sexual congress, he will die unless one of his 
relations sheds tears. To avert this catastrophe, false 
news as to the death are sent by post or telegraph, and 
subsequently corrected by a letter or telegram announcing 
that the individual is alive. A white (albino) crow, which 
made its appearance in the city of Madras a fews years 
ago, caused considerable interest among the residents of 
the locality, as it was regarded as a very good omen. 

Among some classes in Mysore, there is a belief that, if 
a death occurs in a house on Tuesday or Friday, another 
death will speedily follow unless a fowl is tied to one 
corner of the bier. The fowl is buried with the corpse. 
Those castes which do not eat fowls replace it by the bolt 
of the door.* Among the Tamils, if a burial takes place 
on a Saturday, a fowl must be buried or burnt, or another 
death will shortly occur in the family. There is a Tamil 
proverb that a Saturday corpse will not go alone. When 
a fowl is sacrified to the deity by the jungle Paliyans of the 
Palni hills, the head ought to be severed at one blow, as 
this is a sign of the satisfaction of the god for the past, and 
of protection for the future. Should the head still hang, 
this would be a bad omen, foreboding calamities for the 
* J. S. F. Mackenzie, " Ind. Ant.," 1873, »• 68. 


ensuing year.* An interesting rite in connection with 
pregnancy ceremonies among the Oddes (navvies) is the 
presentation of a fowl or two to the pregnant woman by 
her maternal uncle. The birds are tended with great care, 
and, if they lay eggs abundantly, it is a sign that the 
woman will be prolific. 

By some it is considered unlucky to keep pigeons 
about a dwelling-house, as they are believed, on account 
of their habit of standing on one leg, to lead to poverty. 
The temple or blue-rock pigeon is greatly venerated by 
Natives, who consider themselves highly favoured if 
the birds build in their houses. Should a death occur 
in a house where there are tame pigeons, all the birds 
will, it is said, at the time of the funeral, circle thrice 
round the loft, and leave the locality for ever. House 
sparrows are supposed to possess a similar characteristic, 
but, before quitting the house of mourning, they will pull 
every straw out of their nests. Sparrows are credited with 
bringing good luck to the house in which they build their 
nests. For this purpose, when a house is under construc- 
tion, holes are left in the walls or ceiling, or earthen pots 
are hung on the walls by means of nails, as an attractive 
site for nesting. One method of attracting sparrows to 
a house is to make a noise with rupees as in the act of 
cointing out coins. 

There are experts who are able to interpret the signifi- 
cance of the chirping of lizards, which, inter alia, foretells 
the approach of a case of snake-bite, and whether the 
patient will die or not. The fall of a lizard on different 
parts of the body is often taken as an omen for good or 
evil, according as it alights on the right or left side, hand 
or foot, head or shoulders. A Native of Cochin foretold 
from the chirping of a lizard that a robbery would take 
* Rev. F. Dahraen, "Anthropos," 1908, iii. 28. 


place at a certain temple. In accordance with the prophecy, 
the temple jewels were looted, and the prophet was sent 
to prison under suspicion of being an accomplice of the 
thieves, but subsequently released. The hook-swinging 
ceremony is said * to be sometimes performed after the 
consent of the goddess has been obtained. If a lizard 
is heard chirping on the right, it is regarded as a sign of 
her consent. It is believed that the man who is swung 
suffers no pain if the cause is a good one, but excruciating 
agony if it is a bad one. 

If an ** iguana" {Varanus) enters a house, misfortune 
is certain to occur within a year, unless the house is 
shut up for six months. The appearance of a tortoise 
in a house, or in a field which is being ploughed, is 
inauspicious. In the Cuddapah district, a cultivator 
applied for remission of rent, because one of his fields 
had been left waste owing to a tortoise making its appear- 
ance in it. If, under these circumstances, the field had 
been cultivated, the man, his wife, or his cattle, would 
have died. It was pointed out that, as the tortoise was 
one of Vishnu's incarnations, it should have been con- 
sidered as an honour that the animal visited the field ; 
but the reply was that a tortoise would be honoured in 
the water, but not on the land.f 

The sight of two snakes coiled round each other in 
sexual congress is considered to portend some great evil. 
The presence of a rat-snake {Zamenis inucosus) in a house 
at night is believed to bring good fortune to the inmates. 
Its evil influence is in its tail, a blow from which will 
cause a limb to shrink in size and waste away. 

In a valley named Rapuri Kanama in the Cuddapah 
district, there is a pond near a Siva temple to Gundheswara. 

* Rev. M. Phillips, "Evolution of Hinduism," 1903, 123. 
t *' Manual of the Cuddapah District," 1875, 292. 


Those desirous of getting children, wealth, etc., should go 
there with a pure heart, bathe in the pond, and then 
worship at the temple. After this, they should take 
a wild pine-apple leaf, and place it on the border of 
the pond. If their wishes are to be granted, a crab rises 
from the water, and bites the leaf in two. If their wishes 
will not be granted, the crab rises, but leaves the leaf 
untouched. If, however, the person has not approached 
the pond with a pure heart, he will be set upon by a 
swarm of bees, which live in the vicinity, and will be 
driven off.* 

If the nest of a clay-building insect is found in a house, 
the birth of a child is foretold ; if a mud nest, of a male 
child ; if a nest made of jungle lac, of a girl.-f 

* " Manual of the Cuddapah District," 1875, 288. 
t " Gazetteer of the Tanjore District," 1906, i. 66. 


I. Mammals 

There is a belief that the urine of a wild monkey (langur) 
called kondamuccha, which it discharges in a thick stream, 
possesses the power of curing rheumatic pains, if applied 
to the affected part with a mixture of garlic. Some of 
the poorer classes in the villages of Kurnool obtain a 
sale even for stones on which this monkey has urinated, 
and hill people suffering from chronic fever sometimes 
drink its blood.* I am informed by Mr A. Ff. Martin, 
that he has seen a Muduvar on the Travancore hills 
much pulled down by fever seize an expiring black 
monkey {Semnopithecus j'ohnt), and suck the blood from 
its jugular vein. Childless Muduvar couples are dieted 
to make them fruitful, the principal diet for the man 
being plenty of black monkey. The flesh of the black 
monkey (Nilgiri langur) is sold in the Nilgiri bazaars 
as a cure for whooping-cough. When Savara (hill 
tribe in Ganjam) children are seriously ill and emaci- 
ated, offerings are said by Mr G. V. Ramamurthi 
Pantulu to be made to monkeys, not in the belief that 
the illness is caused by them, but because the sick 
child, in its wasted condition, has the attenuated figure 
of these animals. The offerings consist of rice and 
* "Manual of the Kurnool District," 1886, 114. 



other articles of food, which are placed in baskets 
suspended from branches of trees in the jungle. 

Some years ago, a drinking fountain was erected at 
the Madras Museum, in which the water issued from 
the mouth of a lion. It entirely failed in its object, as 
the Native visitors would not use it, because the animal 
was represented in the act of vomiting. 

I am informed by Mr C. Hayavadana Rao that the 
Beparis, who are traders and carriers between the hills 
and plains in the Vizagapatam Agency tracts, regard 
themselves as immune from the attacks of tigers, if they 
take certain precautions. Most of them have to pass 
through places infested with these beasts, and their 
favourite method of keeping them off is as follows. As 
soon as they encamp at a place, they level a square bit 
of ground, and light fires in it, round which they pass 
the night. It is their firm belief that the tiger will not 
enter the square, from fear lest it should become blind, 
and eventually be shot. Mr Hayavadana Rao was once 
travelling towards Malkangiri from Jeypore, when he 
fell in with a party of Beparis thus encamped. At 
that time the villages about Malkangiri were being 
ravaged by a notorious man-eater. In connection with 
man-eating tigers, Mr S. M. Fraser narrates* that, in 
Mysore, a man-eater was said to have attacked parties 
bearing corpses to the burning-ground. 

"The acquisition," he writes, **of such a curious taste 
may perhaps be explained by the following passage in a 
letter from the Amildar. It is a custom among the 
villagers here not to burn or bury the dead bodies of 
pregnant females, but to expose them in the neighbouring 
jungles to be eaten by vultures and wild beasts. The body 
is tied to a tree, in a sitting posture, and a pot of water is 

* Jouvn. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc.^ 1902, xiv., No. 2, 388-91. 


put close by. Not long ago some cowherd boys came 
across the dead body of a woman tied to a tree, and 
noticed the foot-prints of a tiger round it, but the body 
was untouched. The boys cut the rope binding the body, 
which fell to the ground, and the next day the corpse was 
found eaten away by the tiger." 

The village of Hulikal, or tiger's stone, on the 
Nllgiris is so called because in it a Badaga once 
killed a notorious man-eater. The spot where the 
beast was buried is shown near the Pillaiyar (Ganesa) 
temple, and is marked by three stones. It is said 
that there was formerly a stone image of the slain 
tiger thereabouts.* When a tiger enters the dwelling of 
a Savara (hill tribe in Ganjam) and carries off an inmate, 
the village is said to be deserted, and sacrifices are offered 
to some spirits by the inhabitants. It is noted by Mr 
F. Fawcettf that the Savaras have names for numerals 
up to twelve only. This is accounted for by a story that, 
long ago, some Savaras were measuring grain in a 
field, and, when they had completed twelve measures, 
a tiger pounced on them, and devoured them. So, ever 
after, they have not dared to have a numeral above twelve 
for fear of a tiger repeating the performance. In the 
Vizagapatam district, a ballad is sung by the Dasaris 
(a mendicant caste) about the goddess Yerakamma, who 
is reputed to have been the child of Dasari parents, and 
to have had the possession of second sight foretold by a 
Yerukala fortune-teller. She eventually married, and one 
day begged her husband not to go to his field, as she 
was sure he would be killed by a tiger if he did. He 
went notwithstanding, and was slain as she had foreseen. 
She killed herself by committing sati (suttee, or burning 

* " Gazetteer of the Nilgiris," 1908, i. 328. 
+ Journ. Anthrop. Soc, Bombay, i. 241-2. 


of the living widow) on the spot where her shrine still 
stands. The Muduvars are said by Mr Martin to share 
with other jungle folk the belief that, if any animal is 
killed by a tiger or leopard so as to lie north and south, 
it will not be eaten by the beast of prey. Nor will it be 
revisited, so that sitting over a ''kill" which has fallen 
north and south, in the hope of getting a shot at the 
returning tiger or leopard, is a useless proceeding. The 
Billava toddy-drawers believe that, if the spathe of the 
palm tree is beaten with the bone of a buffalo which has 
been killed by a tiger, the yield of toddy will, if the bone 
has not touched the ground, be greater than if an ordinary 
bone is used. 

I once received an application for half a pound of 
tiger's fat, presumably for medicinal purposes. The 
bones of tigers and leopards ground into powder, and 
mixed with their fat, gingelly {Sesamzim) oil, and a 
finely powdered blue stone, make an ointment for the 
cure of syphilitic sores. The bones of a leopard or 
hyasna, ground into powder and made into a paste with 
ox-gall and musk, are said to be a useful ointment for 
application to rheumatic joints. The addition of the fat 
of tigers or leopards makes the ointment more effective. 
I am told that when, on one occasion, a European shot 
a tiger, the Natives were so keen on securing some 
of the fat, that the shikaris (hunters) came to him to 
decide as to the proper distribution among themselves 
and the camp servants. 

The leopard is looked upon as in some way sacred 
by the hill Kondhs. They object to a dead leopard 
being carried through their villages, and oaths are 
taken on a leopard's skin. 

Writing in 1873, Dr Francis Day states* that '*at 
* "Report on the Sea Fisheries of India and Burma," 1873, Ixxvi. 


Cannanore (in Malabar), the Rajah's cat appears to 
be exercising a deleterious influence on one branch at 
least of the fishing-, viz., that for sharks. It appears 
that, in olden times, one fish daily was taken from each 
boat as a perquisite for the Rajah's cat, or the poocha 
meen (cat-fish) collection. The cats apparently have not 
augmented so much as the fishing boats, so this has 
been converted into a money payment of two pies a 
day on each successful boat." 

In connection with cats, there is a tradition that a 
Jogi (Telugu mendicant) bridegroom, before tying the 
bottu (marriage badge) on his bride's neck, had to tie 
it by means of a string dyed with turmeric round the 
neck of a female cat. People sometimes object to the 
catching of cats by Jogis for food, as the detachment of 
a single hair from the body of a cat is considered a 
heinous offence. To overcome the objection, the Jogi 
says that he wants the animal for a marriage ceremony. 
On one occasion, I saw a Madiga (Telugu Pariah) 
carrying home a bag full of kittens, which he said he 
was going to eat. Some time ago, some prisoners, who 
called themselves Billaikavus (cat-eaters), were confined 
in the Vizagapatam jail. I am informed that these people 
are Mala Paidis, who eat cat flesh. 

The gun with which a wolf has been shot falls under 
some evil influence, and it is said not to shoot straight 
afterwards. Hence some shikaris (hunters) will not shoot 
at a wolf. 

The hyaena is believed to beat to death, or strangle 
with its tail, those whom it seizes. The head of a hycena 
is sometimes buried in cattle-sheds, to prevent cattle 
disease. Its incisor teeth are tied round the loins of a 
woman in labour, to lessen the pains.* 

* "Manual of the Kurnool District," 1886, 115. 


There is a belief that, when a bear seizes a man, it 
tickles him to death.* Bears are supposed, owing to 
the multilobulated external appearance of the kidneys, 
to gain an additional pair of these organs every year of 
their life. They are believed to collect ripe wood-apples 
{Feronia elephaniuni) during the season, and store them 
in a secure place in the forest. After a large quantity 
has been collected, they remove the rind, and heap 
together all the pulp. They then bring honey and the 
petals of sweet-smelling flowers, put them on the heap 
of pulp, thresh them with their feet and sticks in their 
hands, and, when the whole has become a consistent 
mass, feast on it. The Vedans (hunters) watch them 
when so engaged, drive them off, and rob them of their 
feast, which they carry off, and sell as karadi pancham- 
ritham, or bear delicacy made of five ingredients. The 
ordinary ingredients of panchamritham are slices of 
plantain (banana) fruits, jaggery (crude sugar) or sugar, 
cocoanut scrapings, ghl (clarified butter), honey, and 
cardamom seeds. 

It is believed that the flesh or blood of some animals, 
which have certain organs largely developed, will cure 
disease of corresponding organs in the human subject. 
Thus, the flesh of the jackal, which is credited with the 
possession of very powerful lungs, is said to be a remedy 
for asthma. 

By the jungle Paliyans of the Palni hills, the following 
device is adopted to protect themselves from the attacks 
of wild animals, the leopard in particular. Four jackals' 
tails are planted in four different spots, chosen so as to 
include the area in which they wish to be safe from the 
brute. Even if a leopard entered the magic square, 

* M. J. Walhouse, "Ind. Ant.," 1876, v. 23. 


it could do the Paliyan no harm, as its mouth is 

There is a belief that the urine of wild dogs {Cyon 
dukhunensis) is extremely acrid, and that they sprinkle 
with it the bushes through which they drive their prey 
(deer and wild pigs), and then rush upon the latter, 
when blinded by the pungent fluid. According to another 
version, they jerk the urine into their victim's eyes with 
their tails. 

The Koyis of the Godavari district are said by the 
Rev. J. Cain f to hold in reverence the Pandava brothers, 
Arjuna and Bhima, and claim descent from the latter 
by his marriage with a wild woman of the woods. The 
wild dogs or dhols are regarded as the dutas or messengers 
of the brothers, and they would on no account kill a 
dhol, even though it should attack their favourite calf. 
They even regard it as imprudent to interfere with these 
dutas, when they wish to feast upon their cattle. The 
long black beetles, which appear in large numbers at 
the beginning of the hot weather, are called by the 
Koyis the Pandava flock of goats. 

At a sale of cattle, the vendor sometimes takes a 
small quantity of straw in his hand, and, putting some 
cow-dung on it, presents it to the purchaser.! The five 
products of the cow, known as panchagavyam — milk, 
curds, butter, urine, and fceces — are taken by Hindus to 
remove pollution from confinement, a voyage across the 
seas, and other causes. It is on record § that the Tanjore 
Nayakar, having betrayed Madura and suffered for it, 
was told by his Brahman advisers that he had better 

* Rev. F. Dahmen, "Anthropos," 1908, iii. 30. / 

t " Ind. Ant.," 1876, v. 359. 

X H. J. Stokes, " Ind. Ant.," 1874, iii. 90. 

§ J. S. Chandler, Calcutta Review, July, 1903, cxvii. 28. 


be born again. So a colossal cow was cast in bronze, 
and the Nayakar shut up inside. The wife of his 
Brahman guru (religious preceptor) received him in her 
arms, rocked him on her knees, and caressed him on 
her breast, and he tried to cry like a baby. It is recorded 
by Frazer* that, when a Hindu child's horoscope portends 
misfortune or crime, he is born again from a cow thus. 
Being dressed in scarlet, and tied on a new sieve, he is 
passed between the hind-legs of a cow forward through 
the fore-legs, and again in the reverse direction, to 
simulate birth. The ordinary birth ceremonies are then 
gone through, and the father smells his son as a cow 
smells her calf. 

Tradition runs to the effect that, at the time of the 
separation of Ramesvaram island from the mainland, the 
cows became prisoners thereon. Not being able, like 
the cows of Cape Cod, which are fed on herrings' heads, 
to adapt themselves to a fish diet, they became gradually 
converted into diminutive metamporphosed cows, which 
may still be seen grazing on the shore. The legend is 
based on the fancied resemblance of the horned coffer- 
fishes {Ostracion cornutus), which are frequently caught by 
the fishermen, to cattle. Portions of the skulls of cats 
and dogs, which are sometimes picked up on the beach, 
also bear a rude resemblance to the skull of a cow, the 
horns being represented by the zygoma. 

A story is told at Cochin that the beautiful blue and 
white tiles from Canton, which adorn the floor of the 
synagogue of the White Jews, were originally intended 
for the Durbar hall of a former Raja of Cochin. But a 
wily Jew declared that bullock's blood must have been 
used in the preparation of the glaze, and offered to take 

* "Toteinism," 1887,33. 


them off the hands of the Raja, who was only too glad to 
get rid of them. 

The afterbirths (placentae) of cattle are tied to a tree 
which yields a milky juice, in the belief that the cow will 
thereby give a better yield of milk. 

There is a custom among the Tellis (Oriya oil-pressers) 
that, if a cow dies with a rope round its neck, or on the 
spot where it is tethered, the family is under pollution 
until purification has been effected by means of a 
pilgrimage, or by bathing in a sacred river. The 
Holodia section of the Tellis will not rear male calves, and 
do not castrate their bulls. Male calves are disposed of 
by sale as speedily as possible 

If the jungle Paliyans of Tinnevelly come across the 
carcase of a cow or buffalo near a stream, they will not go 
near it for a long time. They absolutely refuse to touch 
leather, and one of them declined to carry my camera box, 
because he detected that it had a leather strap. 

The Bakudas of South Canara will not carry a bed- 
stead, unless the legs are first taken off, and it is said that 
this objection rests upon the supposed resemblances 
between the four-legged cot and the four-legged ox. In 
like manner, the Koragas have a curious prejudice against 
carrying any four-legged animal, dead or alive. This 
extends to anything with four legs, such as a chair, table, 
etc., which they cannot be prevailed on to lift, unless one 
leg is removed. As they work as coolies, this is said 
sometimes to cause inconvenience.* 

Among the Sembaliguda Gadabas of Vizagapatam, 
there is a belief that a piece of wild buffalo horn, buried in 
the ground of the village, will avert or cure cattle disease.! 

The jungle Kadirs believe that their gods occasionally 

* M. J. ^zWionse, Journal Anthrop. Inst, 1874, iv. 376. 
t H. D. Taylor, "Madras Census Report," 1891. 



reside in the body of a "bison" {Bos gaurus\ and have 
been known to worship a bull shot by a sportsman. 

The goddess Gangadevi is worshipped by the Kevutos 
(fishing caste) of Ganjam at the Dasara festival, and goats 
are sacrificed in her honour. In the neighbourhood of the 
Chilka lake, the goats are not sacrificed, but set at liberty, 
and allowed to graze on the Kalikadevi hill. There is a 
belief that animals thus dedicated to the goddess do not 
putrify when they die, but dry up. 

The Tiyans (toddy-drawers) of Malabar carry, tucked 
into the waist-cloth, a bone loaded with lead at both ends, 
which is used for tapping the flower-stalk of the palm tree 
to bring out the juice. A man once refused to sell one of 
these bones to Mr F. Fawcett at any price, as it was the 
femur of a sambar {Cervus imicolor)^ which possessed such 
virtue that it would fetch juice out of any tree. Deer's 
horn, ground into a fine paste, is said to be an excellent 
balm for pains and swellings. It is sometimes made into 
a powder, which is mixed with milk or honey, and 
produces a potion which is supposed to aid the growth 
of stunted women.* 

A Yanadi shikari (hunter) has been known, when 
skinning a black buck (antelope) shot by a European, to 
cut out the testicles, and wrap them up in his loin-cloth, 
to be subsequently taken as an aphrodisiac. Antelope 
horn, when powdered and burnt, is said to drive away 
mosquitoes, and keep scorpions away. A paste made 
with antelope horn is used as an external application for 
sore throat. Antelope and chinkara (Indian gazelle) horns, 
if kept in grain baskets, are said to prevent weevils from 
attacking the grain. 

The Gadabas of Vizagapatam will not touch a horse, 
as they are palanquin- bearers, and have the same objection 
* Madras Mail, 26th January, 1906. 


to the rival animal that a cab-driver has to a motor-car. 
In South Canara, none but the lowest Pariah will rub a 
horse down. If a Malai Vellala of Coimbatore touches 
one of these animals, he has to perform a religious 
ceremonial for the purpose of purification. 

The members of the elephant sept of the Oriya Haddis, 
when they see the foot-prints of an elephant, take some of 
the dust from the spot, and make a mark on the forehead 
with it. They also draw the figure of an elephant, and 
worship it, when they perform sradh and other ceremonies. 
Wild elephants are said to be held in veneration by the 
jungle Kadirs, whereas tame ones are believed to have 
lost the divine element.* 

When cholera breaks out in a Kondh village, all males 
and females smear their bodies from head to foot with pig's 
fat liquefied by heat, and continue to do so until a few days 
after the disappearance of the dread disease. During this 
time they do not bathe, lest the smell of the fat should be 
washed away. 

Some women rub the blood of the small garden-bat, 
which has well-developed ears, into the artificially dilated 
lobes of their ears, so as to strengthen them. The wings 
of bats are highly prized as a hairwash. They are crushed, 
and mixed with cocoanut oil, and other ingredients. The 
mixture is kept underground in a closed vessel for three 
months, and then used to prevent the hair from falling 
out or turning grey.f The Paniyans of Malabar are said 
to eat land-crabs for a similar purpose. 

The common striped or palm-squirrel {Sciuriis palmarzitn) 
was, according to a legend, employed by Rama to assist 
the army of monkeys in the construction of the bridge to 
connect Ramesvaram island with Ceylon, whither Ravana 

* L. K. Anantha Krishna Iyer, "Cochin Tribes and Castes," 1909, i. 22. 
I Madras Mail, 26th January, 1906. 


had carried off his wife Sita. The squirrel helped the 
monkeys by rolling in the sand on the shore, so as to 
collect it in its hairy coat, and then depositing it between 
the piled up stones, so as to cement them together. See- 
ing it fatigued by its labours, Rama sympathetically stroked 
its back with the three middle fingers of his right hand, 
marks of which still persist in the squirrels at the present 
day. There is a further legend that, once upon a time, 
one of the gods, having compassion on the toddy-drawers 
because their life was a hard one, and because they were 
constantly exposed to danger, left at the foot of a palmyra 
tree some charmed water, the value of which was that it 
saved from injury any one falling from a height. A toddy- 
drawer, however, got drunk, and, forgetting to drink the 
elixir, went home. When he returned, he found that a 
squirrel had drunk it, and vowed vengeance on it. And 
that is why every toddy-drawer will always kill a squirrel, 
and also why the squirrel, from whatever height it may 
fall, comes to no harm.* In a note on the Pariah caste 
in Travancore, the Rev. S. Mateer narrates f a legend 
that the Shanans (Tamil toddy-drawers) are descended 
from Adi, the daughter of a Pariah woman at Karuvur, 
who taught them to climb the palm tree, and prepared 
a medicine which would protect them from falling from 
the high trees. The squirrels also ate some of it, and 
enjoy a similar immunity. There is a Tamil proverb 
that, if you desire to climb trees, you must be a Shanan. 
The story was told by Bishop Caldwell of a Shanan 
who was sitting upon a leaf-stalk at the top of a palmyra 
palm in a high wind, when the stalk gave way, and he 
came down to the ground quite safely, sitting on the 

* S. P. Rice, "Occasional Essays on Native South Indian Life," 
1901,211. t 

\ Journ. Roy. Asiat. Soc, 1884, xvi. 181. 


leaf, which served the purpose of a natural parachute. 
Woodpeckers are called Shanara kurivi by bird-catchers, 
because they climb trees like Shanans. 

There is a legend that, before the Kaliyuga began, 
the Pandavas lived on the Nllgiris. A kind of edible 
truffle {Mylitta lapidescens) is known as little man's bread 
on these hills. The Badaga legendary name for it is 
Pandva-unna-buthi, or dwarf bundle of food,* z>., food of 
the dwarfs, who are supposed to have built the pandu 
kulis or kistvaens. Being so small, they called in the 
black-naped hare {Lepus nigricollis) to plough their fields. 
The black patches on their necks are the inherited mark 
of the yoke. The blood of the hare is administered to 
children suffering from cough. 

Brahmans use a porcupine quill for parting their wives' 
hair in a ceremony connected with the period of gestation 
known as simantam. It is said f that among the Nambutiri 
Brahmans, the quill should have three white marks on 
it. The quills of porcupines are sold by Jogis (Telugu 
mendicants) to goldsmiths, for use as brushes. 

There is a tradition among the fishing folk of Rames- 
varam island that a box of money was once found in the 
stomach of a dugong {Halicore dugong)^ and an official is 
consequently invited to be present at the examination of 
the stomach contents, so that the possessors of the carcase 
may not be punished under the Treasure Trove Act for 
concealing treasure. The fat of the dugong is believed 
to be efficacious in the treatment of dysentery, and is 
administered in the form of sweetmeats, or used instead 
of ghl (clarified butter) in the preparation of food. 

* Report, Govt. Botanical Gardens, Nllgiris, 1903- 
t " Gazetteer of Malabar," 1908, i. 163. 


2. Birds 

The following story is current concerning the sacred 
vultures of Tirukazhukunram. The Ashtavasus, or eight 
gods who guard the eight points of the compass, did 
penance, and Siva appeared in person before them. But, 
becoming angry with them, he cursed them, and turned 
them into vultures. When they asked for forgiveness, 
Siva directed that they should remain at the temple of 
Vedagiri Iswara. One pair of these birds still survives, 
and come to the temple daily at noon for food. Two balls 
of rice cooked with ghi (clarified butter) and sugar, which 
have been previously offered to the deity, are placed at 
a particular spot on the hill. The vultures, arriving 
simultaneously, appropriate a ball apiece. The temple 
priests say that, every day, one of the birds goes on a 
pilgrimage to Benares, and the other to Ramesvaram. 
It is also said that the pair will never come together, if 
sinners are present at the temple. 

When a person is ill, his family sometimes make a 
vow that they will offer a few pounds of mutton to the 
Brahmani kite {Haliastur indusj Garuda pakshi) on 
the patient's recovery. It is believed that, should the 
offering be acceptable, the sick person will speedily get 
better, and the bird will come to demand its meat, making 
its presence known by sitting on a tree near the house, 
and crying plaintively. The shadow of a Brahmani kite fall- 
ing on a cobra is said to stupefy the snake. The Kondhs 
do not consider it a sin to kill this bird, which is held 
in veneration throughout Southern India. A Kondh will 
kill it for so slight an offence as carrying off his chickens. 
/ The crow is believed to possess only one eye, which 
moves from socket to socket as occasion demands. The 


belief is founded on the legend that an Asura, disguised 
as a crow, while Rama was sleeping with his head on 
Sita's lap in the jungles of Dandaka, pecked at her breasts, 
so that blood issued therefrom. On waking, Rama, 
observing the blood, and learning the cause of it, clipped 
a bit of straw, and, after infusing it with the Brahma 
astra (miraculous weapon), let it go against the crow 
Asura, who appealed to Rama for mercy. Taking pity 
on it, Rama told the Asura to offer one of its eyes to the 
weapon, and saved it from death. Since that time, crows 
are supposed to have only one eye. The Kondhs will 
not kill crows, as this would be a sin amounting to 
the killing of a friend. According to their legend, soon 
after the creation of the world, there was a family con- 
sisting of an aged man and woman, and four children, 
who died one after the other in quick succession. Their 
parents were too infirm to take the necessary steps for 
their cremation, so they threw the bodies away on the 
ground at some distance from their home. God appeared 
to them in their dreams one night, and promised that he 
would create the crow, so that it might devour the dead 
bodies. Some Koyis believe that hell is the abode of 
an iron crow, which feeds on all who go there. There 
is a legend in the Kavarathi Island of the Laccadives, 
that a Mappilla tangal (Muhammadan priest) once cursed 
the crows for dropping their excrement on his person, 
and now there is not a crow on the island. 

It is believed that, if a young crow-pheasant is tied 
by an iron chain to a tree, the mother, as soon as she 
discovers the captive, will go and fetch a certain root, 
and by its aid break the chain, which, when it snaps, 
is converted into gold. 

In some Kapu (Telugu cultivator) houses, bundles of 
ears of rice may be seen hung up as food for sparrows. 


which are held in esteem. The hopping of sparrows is 
said to resemble the gait of a person confined in fetters, and 
there is a legend that the Kapus were once in chains, and 
the sparrows set them at liberty, and took the bondage 
on themselves. Native physicians prescribe the flesh and 
bones of cock sparrows for those who have lost their virility. 
The birds are cleaned, and put in a mortar, together with 
other medicinal ingredients. They are pounded together 
for several hours, so that the artificial heat produced by the 
operation converts the mixture into a pulpy mass, which is 
taken in small doses. The flesh of quails and partridges 
is also believed to possess remedial properties. 

A west coast housewife, when she buys a fowl, goes 
through a mystic ritual to prevent it from getting 
lost. She takes it thrice round the fireplace, saying 
to it: '' Roam over the country and the forest, and come 
home safe again." Some years ago, a rumour spread 
through the Koyi villages that an iron cock was abroad 
very early in the morning, and upon the first village in 
which it heard one or more cocks crow it would send a 
pestilence, and decimate the village. In one instance, at 
least, this led to the immediate extermination of all the 
cocks in the village. 

The Indian roller {Coracias indica\ commonly called 
the blue jay, is known as pala-pitta or milk bird, because 
it is supposed that, when a cow gives little milk, the yield 
will be increased if a few of the feathers of this bird are 
chopped up, and given to it along with grass. 

The fat of the peacock, which moves gracefully and 
easily, is supposed to cure stiff joints. Peacock's feathers 
are sold in the bazaar, and the burnt ashes are used as a 
cure for vomiting. 

The deposit of white magnesite in the "Chalk Hills" 
of the Salem district is believed to consist of the bones 


of the mythical bird Jatayu, which fought Ravana, to 
rescue Sita from his clutches. 

3. Reptiles and Batrachians. 

It is recorded by Canter Visscher* that, 'Mn the 
mountains and remote jungles of this country (Malabar), 
there is a species of snake of the shape and thickness 
of the stem of a tree, which can swallow men and beasts 
entire. I have been told an amusing story about one 
of these snakes. It is said that at Barcelore a chego 
(Chogan) had climbed up a cocoanut tree to draw toddy 
or palm wine, and, as he was coming down, both his 
legs were seized by a snake which had stretched itself up 
alongside the tree with its mouth wide open, and was 
sucking him in gradually as he descended. Now, the 
Indian, according to the custom of his country, had stuck 
his teifermes (an instrument not unlike a pruning knife), 
into his girdle with the curve turned outwards ; and, when 
he was more than half swallowed, the knife began to rip 
up the body of the snake so as to make an opening, by 
which the lucky man was most unexpectedly able to escape. 
Though the snakes in this country are so noxious to the 
natives, yet the ancient veneration for them is still 
maintained. No one dares to injure them or to drive them 
away by violence, and so audacious do they become that 
they will sometimes creep between people's legs when they 
are eating, and attack their bowls of rice, in which case 
retreat is necessary until the monsters have satiated them- 
selves, and taken their departure." 

Another snake story, worthy of the Baron Munchausen, 

is recorded in Taylor's ''Catalogue raisonne of Oriental 

Manuscripts, "f 

* Letters from Malabar, Translation, Madras, 1862. 
t 1862, iii. 464, 


''The Coya (Koyi) people eat snakes. About forty 
years since a Brahman saw a person cooking snakes for 
food, and, expressing great astonishment, was told by 
the forester that these were mere worms ; that, if he 
wished to see a serpent, one should be shown him ; but 
that, as for themselves, secured by the potent charms 
taught them by Ambikesvarer, they feared no serpents. 
As the Brahman desired to see this large serpent, a child 
was sent with a bundle of straw and a winnowing fan, 
who went, accompanied by the Brahman, into the depths 
of the forest, and, putting the straw on the mouth of a 
hole, commenced winnowing, when smoke of continually 
varying colours arose, followed by bright flame, in the 
midst of which a monstrous serpent having seven heads 
was seen. The Brahman was speechless with terror at the 
sight, and, being conducted back by the child, was dis- 
missed with presents of fruits." 

It is stated by Mr Gopal Panikkar* that, ''people 
believe in the existence inside the earth of a precious 
stone called manikkakkallu. These stones are supposed 
to have been made out of the gold, which has existed in 
many parts of the earth from time immemorial. Certain 
serpents of divine nature have been blowing for ages on 
these treasures of gold, some of which dwindle into a 
small stone of resplendent beauty and brightness called 
manikkam. The moment their work is finished, the 
serpents are transformed into winged serpents, and fly 
up into the air with the stones in their mouths." 

According to another version of this legend, f " people 
in Malabar believe that snakes guard treasure. But 
silver they will have none. Even in the case of gold, 
the snakes are said to visit hidden treasure for twelve 
years occasionally, and, only when they find that the 

* '• Malabar and its Folk," Madras, 2nd ed., 59. 

t C. Karunakara Menon, Calcutta Review^ July, 1901. 


treasure is not removed in the meantime, do they begin 
to guard it. When once it has begun to watch, the 
snake is said to be very zealous over it. It is said to hiss 
at it day and night. This constant application is believed 
to diminish its proportions, and to make it assume a smaller 
appearance. In time, in the place of the pointed tail, 
the reptile is said to get wings, and the treasure, by the 
continuous hissing, to assume the form of a precious 
stone. When this is done, the snake is said to fly with its 
precious acquisition. So strong is this belief that, when 
a comet appeared some ten years ago, people firmly 
believed that it was the flight of the winged serpent with 
the precious stone." 

Natives, when seeking for treasure, arm themselves 
with a staff made from one of the snake-wood trees, in the 
belief that the snakes which guard the treasure will retire 
before it. 

In Malabar, it is believed that snakes wed mortal 
girls, and fall in love with women. When once they 
do so, they are said to be constantly pursuing them, and 
never to leave them, except for an occasional separation 
for food. The snake is said never to use its fangs 
against its chosen woman. So strong is the belief, that 
women in Malabar would think twice before attempting 
to go by themselves into a bush.* 

There is a temple in Ganjam, the idol in which is 
said to be protected from desecration at night by a cobra. 
When the doors are being shut, the snake glides in, and 
coils itself round the lingam. Early in the morning, 
when the priest opens the door, it glides away, without 
attempting to harm any of the large number of spectators, 
who never fail to assemble.^ 

* C. Karunakara Menon, Calcutta Review.^ July, 1901. 
t Madras Mail^ 22nd July, 1905. 


The town of Nagercoil in Travancore derives its name 
from the temple dedicated to the snake-god (naga kovil), 
where many stone images of snakes are deposited. There 
is a belief that snake-bite is not fatal within a mile of 
the temple. 

The safety with which snake-charmers handle cobras 
is said to be due to the removal of a stone, which supplied 
their teeth with venom, from under the tongue or behind 
the hood. This stone is highly prized as a snake poison 
antidote. It is said to be not unlike a tamarind stone 
in size, shape, and appearance ; and is known to be 
genuine if, when it is immersed in water, bubbles con- 
tinue to rise from it, or if, when put into the mouth, it 
gives a leap, and fixes itself to the palate. When it is 
applied to the punctures made by the snake's poison 
fangs, it is said to stick fast and extract the poison, 
falling off of itself as soon as it is saturated. After the 
stone drops off, the poison which it has absorbed is 
removed by placing it in a vessel of milk which becomes 
darkened in colour. A specimen was submitted to 
Faraday, who expressed his belief that it was a piece 
of charred bone, which had been filled with blood, and 
then charred again.* 

There is, in Malabar, a class of people called 
mantravadis (dealers in magical spells), who are believed 
to possess an hereditary power of removing the effects 
of snake poison by repeating mantrams, and performing 
certain rites. If a house is visited by snakes, they can 
expel them by reciting such mantrams on three small 
pebbles, and throwing them on to the roof. In cases 
of snake-bite, they recite mantrams and wave a cock over 
the patient's body from the head towards the feet. Some- 
times a number of cocks have to be sacrificed before 

* Vide, Yule and Burnell, " Hobson-Jobson," ed. 1903, 874-9. 


the charm works. The patient is then taken to a tank 
(pond) or well, and a number of pots of water are emptied 
over his head, while the mantravadi utters mantrams. 
There are said to be certain revengeful snakes, which, 
after they have bitten a person, coil themselves round 
the branches of a tree, and render the efforts of the 
mantravadi ineffective. In such a case, he, through the 
aid of mantrams, sends ants and other insects to harass 
the snake, which comes down from the tree, and 
sucks the poison from the punctures which it has made. 

In the early part of the last century, a certain Tanjore 
pill had a reputation as a specific against the bite of mad 
dogs, and of the most poisonous snakes.* 

The following note on a reputed cure for snake 
poisoning, used by the Oddes (navvies), was com- 
municated to me by Mr Gustav Haller. 

"A young boy, who belonged to a gang of Oddes, 
was catching rats, and put his hand into a bamboo bush, 
when a cobra bit him, and clung to his finger when he 
was drawing his hand out of the bush. I saw the dead 
snake, which was undoubtedly a cobra. I was told that 
the boy was in a dying condition, when a man of the 
same gang said that he would cure him. He applied 
a brown pill to the wound, to which it stuck without 
being tied. The man dipped a root into the water, and 
rubbed it on the lad's arm from the shoulder downwards. 
The arm, which was benumbed, gradually became 
sensitive, and at last the fingers could move, and the 
pill dropped off. The moist root was rubbed on to the 
boy's tongue, and into the corner of the eyes, before 
commencing operations. The man said that a used pill 
is quite efficacious, but should be well washed to get 
rid of the poison. In the manufacture of the pills, five 
leaves of a creeper are dried, and ground to powder. 

* Asiatic Journal^ ii. 381. 


The pill must be inserted for nine days between the bark 
and cambium of a margosa tree {Melia Aaadirachta) during 
the new moon, when the sap ascends." 

The creeper referred to is Tinospora cordifolia (gul bel), 
and the roots are apparently those of the same climbing 
shrub. There is a widespread belief that gul bel growing 
on a margosa tree is more efficacious as a medicine than 
that which is found on other kinds of trees. 

In cases of snake-bite, the Dommara snake-charmers 
place over the seat of the bite a black stone, which is 
said to be composed of various drugs mixed together 
and burnt. It is said to drop off, as soon as it has 
absorbed all the poison. It is then put into milk or 
water to extract the poison, and the fluid is thrown away 
as being dangerous to life if swallowed. The Mandulas 
(wandering medicine men) use as an antidote against 
snake-bite a peculiar wood, of which a piece is torn off, 
and eaten by the person bitten.* Among the Viramushtis 
(professional mendicants), there is a subdivision called 
Naga Mallika {Rhinacanthus communis)^ the roots of which 
are believed to cure snake-bite. The jungle Paliyans of 
the Palni hills are said f to carry with them certain leaves, 
called naru valli ver, which they believe to be a very 
efficient antidote to snake-bite. As soon as one of them 
is bitten, he chews the leaves, and also applies them to 
the punctures. The Kudumi medicine men of Travancore 
claim to be able to cure snake-bite by the application of 
certain leaves ground into a paste, and by exercising 
their magical powers. The Telugu Tottiyans are noted 
for their power of curing snake-bites by means of mystical 
incantations, and the original inventor of this mode 

* Bishop Whitehead, Madras Diocesan Magazine, July, 1906. 
•f Rev. F. Dahmen, " Anthropos," 1908, iii. 22. 


of treatment has been deified under the name of 

The jungle Yanadis are fearless in catching cobras, 
which they draw out of their holes without any fear of 
their fangs. They claim to be under the protection of a 
charm, while so doing. A correspondent writes that a 
cobra was in his grounds, and his servant called in a 
Yanadi to dislodge it. The man caught it alive, and, 
before killing it, carefully removed the poison-sac with a 
knife, and swallowed it as a protection against snake- 

The Nayadis of Malabar, when engaged in catching 
rats in their holes, wear round the wrist a snake-shaped 
metal ring, to render them safe against snakes which may 
be concealed in the hole. 

A treatment for cobra-bite is to take a chicken, and 
make a deep incision into the beak at the basal end. The 
cut surface is applied to the puncture made by the snake's 
fangs, which are opened up with a knife. After a time 
the chicken dies, and, if the patient has not come 
round, more chicken must be applied until he is out 
of danger. The theory is that the poison is attracted by 
the blood of the chicken, and enters it. The following 
treatment for cobra bite is said * to be in vogue in some 
places : — 

" As soon as a person has been bitten, a snake-charmer 
is sent for, who allures the same or another cobra whose 
fangs have not been drawn to the vicinity of the victim, 
and causes it to bite him at as nearly as possible the same 
place as before. Should this be fulfilled, the bitten man 
will as surely recover as the snake will die. It is believed 
that, if a person should come across two cobras together, 
they will give him no quarter. To avoid being pursued 

* Madras Mail^ 26th January, 1906. 


by them, he takes to his heels, after throwing behind some 
garment, on which the snakes expend their wrath. When 
they have completed the work of destruction, the pieces 
to which the cloth has been reduced, are gathered together, 
and preserved as a panacea for future ills." 

A fisherman, who is in doubt as to whether a water- 
snake which has bitten him is poisonous or not, sometimes 
has resort to a simple remedy. He dips his hands into 
the mud, and eats several handfuls thereof.* 

The fragrant inflorescence of Pandanus fascicularis is 
believed to harbour a tiny snake, which is more deadly 
than the cobra. Incautious smelling of the flowers may, 
it is said, lead to death. 

The earth-snake {Typhlops braminus) is known as the 
ear-snake, because it is supposed to enter the ear of a 
sleeper, and cause certain death. 

The harmless tree-snake {Dendrophis pictus) is more 
dreaded than the cobra. It is believed that, after biting 
a human being, it ascends the nearest palmyra palm, 
where it waits until it sees the smoke ascending from the 
funeral pyre of the victim. The only chance of saving 
the life of a person who has been bitten is to have a mock 
funeral, whereat a straw effigy is burnt. Seeing the 
smoke, the deluded snake comes down from the tree, and 
the bitten person recovers. 

The green tree-snake {Dryophis mycterizans) is said 
to have a habit of striking at the eyes of people, to 
prevent which a rag is tied round the head of the snake, 
when it is caught. Another, and more curious belief is 
that a magical oil can be prepared from its dead body. 
A tender cocoanut is opened at one end, and the body of 
the snake is put into the cocoanut, which, after being 
closed, is buried in a miry place, and allowed to remain 
* Madras Mail, 26th January, 1906. 


there until the body decays, and the water in the cocoanut 
becomes saturated with the products of decomposition. 
When this has taken place, the water is taken out, and 
used as oil for a lamp. When a person carries such a 
lamp lighted, his body will appear to be covered all over 
by running green tree-snakes, to the great dismay of all 

For the following note on beliefs concerning the green 
tree-snake {Dryophis), I am indebted to Dr N. Annandale. 
A recipe for making a good curry, used by women who are 
bad cooks, is to take a tree-snake, and draw it through 
the hands before beginning to make the curry. To cure 
a headache, kill a tree-snake, and ram cotton seed and 
castor-oil down its throat, until the whole body is full. 
Then bury it, and allow the seeds to grow. Take the seeds 
of the plants that spring up, and separate the cotton from 
the castor seeds. Ram them down the throat of a second 
snake. Repeat the process on a third snake, and make a 
wick from the cotton of the plant that grows out of its 
body, and oil from the castor plants. If you light the 
wick in a lamp filled with the oil, and take it outside at 
night, you will see the whole place alive with green tree- 
snakes. Another way of performing the same experiment 
is to bore a hole in a ripe cocoanut, put in a live tree-snake, 
and stop the hole up. Then place the cocoanut beneath 
a cow in a cowshed for forty days, so that it is exposed 
to the action of the cow's urine. A lamp fed with oil made 
from the cocoanut will enable you to see innumerable tree- 
snakes at night. 

The bite of the sand-snake {Eryx Johnii) is believed to 
cause leprosy and twisting of the hands and feet. An 
earth -snake, which lives at Kodaikanal on the Palni 

* M. Upendra Pai, Madras Christian Coll. Mag.., 1895., xiii,, No. 
I, 29. 



hills, is credited with giving leprosy to any one whose 
skin it licks. In the treatment of leprosy, a Russell's 
viper {Vipera russellii) is stuffed with rice, and put in 
an earthen pot, the mouth of which is sealed with clay. 
The pot is buried for forty days, and then exhumed. 
Chickens are fed with the rice, and the patient is 
subsequently fed on the chickens. The fat of the rat- 
snake {Zanienis mucosus) is used as an external application 
in the treatment of leprosy. An old woman, during an 
epidemic of cholera at Bezwada, used to inject the 
patients hypodermically with an aqueous solution of 
cobra venom. 

Mischievous children, and others, when they see two 
persons quarrelling, rub the nails of the fingers of one 
hand against those of the other, and repeat the words 
'* Mungoose and snake, bite, bite," in the hope that 
thereby the quarrel will be intensified, and grow more 
exciting from the spectator's point of view. 

When a friend was engaged in experiments on snake 
venom, some Dommaras (jugglers) asked for permission 
to unbury the corpses of the snakes and mungooses for 
the purpose of food. 

If a snake becomes entangled in the net of a Bestha 
fisherman in Mysore when it is first used, the net is 
rejected, and burnt or otherwise disposed of. 

There is a widespread belief among children in 
Malabar, that a lizard {Calotes versicolor) sucks the blood 
of those whom it looks at. As soon, therefore, as they 
catch sight of this creature, they apply saliva to the 
navel, from which it is believed that the blood is 

A legend is recorded by Dr Annandale,* in accordance 
with which every good Muhammadan should kill the 
* Mem. Asiat. Hoc, Bengal, 1906, i,, No, 10, 


blood - sucker (lizard), Calotes gtgas, at sight, because, 
when some fugitive Muhammadans were hiding from 
their enemies in a well, one of these animals came and 
nodded its head in their direction till their enemies saw 

A similar legend about another lizard is described 
as existing in Egypt. Dr Annandale further records 
that the Hindus and Muhammadans of Ramnad in 
the Ramnad district regard the chamasleon {Chamcskon 
calcaratus) as being possessed by an evil spirit, and will 
not touch it, lest the spirit should enter their own bodies. 
I have been told that the bite of a chamasleon is more 
deadly than that of a cobra. 

There is a popular belief that the bite of the Brahmini 
lizard {Mabuia carinata), called aranai in Tamil, is 
poisonous, and there is a saying that death is instant- 
aneous if aranai bites. The same belief exists in Ceylon, 
and Mr Arthur Willey informs me that deaths attributed 
to the bite of this animal are recorded almost annually 
in the official vital statistics. I have never heard of a 
case of poisoning by the animal in question. There is 
a legend that, ''when the cobra and the arana were 
created, poison was supplied to them, to be sucked from 
a leaf. The arana sucked it wholesale, leaving only the 
leaf smeared over with poison for the cobra to lap 
poison from ; thereby implying that the cobra is far less 
venomous than the arana. Thus people greatly exag- 
gerate the venomous character of the arana."* 

It has already been noted (p. 73) that, when Savara 
children are emaciated from illness, offerings are made 
to monkeys. Blood-suckers are also said to be propitiated, 
because they have filamentous bodies. A blood-sucker 

* T. K. Gopal Panikkar, " Madras and its Folk," Madras. 2nd ed 


is captured, small toy arrows are tied round its body, and a 
piece of cloth is tied round its head. Some drops of liquor 
are then poured into its mouth, and it is set at liberty. 

The Maratha Rajas of Sandur belong to a family 
called Ghorpade, which name is said to have been earned 
by one of them scaling a precipitous fort by clinging to 
an ''iguana" (Varanus), which was crawling up it. The 
flesh of the "iguana" is supposed to be possessed of 
extraordinary invigorating powers, and a meal off this 
animal is certain to restore the powers of youth. Its 
bite is considered very dangerous, and it is said that, 
when it has once closed its teeth on human flesh, it will 
not reopen them, and the* only remedy is to cut out the 
piece it has bitten.* This animal and the crocodile are 
believed to proceed from the eggs laid by one animal. 
They are laid and hatched near water, and, of the animals 
which come out of them, some find their way into the 
water, while others remain on land. The former become 
crocodiles, and the latter "iguanas." The flesh of the 
crocodile is administered as a cure for whooping-cough. 

It is popularly believed that, if a toad falls on a 
pregnant woman, the child that is to be born will die 
soon after birth. The only remedy is to capture the 
offending toad, and fry it in some medicinal oil, which 
must be administered to the child in order to save it 
from death.! 

4. Fishes 

It is recorded J that " Matsya gundam (fish pool) is 
a curious pool in the Macheru (fish river) near the 
village of Matam, close under the great Yendrika hill. 

* "Manual of the Cuddapah District," 1875, 293-4. 

t Madras Mail, 26th January, 1906. 

1 "Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam District," 1907, i. 286. ' 


The pool is crowded with mahseer {Barbus tor) of all 
sizes. These are wonderfully tame, the bigger ones feed- 
ing fearlessly from one's hand, and even allowing their 
backs to be stroked. They are protected by the 
Madgole zamindars, who on several grounds venerate 
all fish. Once, the story goes, a Brinjari caught one, 
and turned it into curry, whereon the king of the fish 
solemnly cursed him, and he and all his pack-bullocks 
were turned into rocks, which may be seen there to the 
present day. At Sivaratri, a festival occurs at the little 
thatched shrine near by, the priest at which is a 
Bagata (Telugu freshwater fisher), and part of the ritual 
consists in feeding the sacred fish. The Madgole 
zamindars claim to be descended from the rulers of 
Matsya Desa. They are installed on a stone throne 
shaped like a fish, display a fish on their banners, and 
use a figure of a fish as a signature. Some of their 
dependents wear ear-rings shaped like a fish." 

A tank at Coondapoor contained a species of fish 
locally known as the flower-fish, which was especially 
reserved for the table of Tipu Sultan, being fat and 
full of blood.* The sacred fish at Tirupparankunram 
near Madura are said to have been sages in a bygone 
age, and it is believed to be very meritorious to look 
at them. They are said to appear on the surface of the 
water only if you call out " Kasi Visvanatha." But it 
is said that a handful of peas thrown into the pool is 
more effective. The Ambalakkarans (Tamil cultivators) 
admit that they are called Valaiyans, but repudiate any 
connection with the caste of that name. They explain 
the appellation by a story that, when Siva's ring was 
swallowed by a fish in the Ganges, one of their ancestors 
invented the first net (valai) made in the world. 
* "Manual of the South Canara District," 1895, ••■ 242. 


Some Natives will not eat the murrel fish {Ophiocephalus 
siriatus)y owing to its resemblance to a snake. Some 
Halepaiks (Canarese toddy-drawers) avoid eating a fish 
called Srinivasa, because they fancy that the streaks on 
the body bear a resemblance to the Vaishnavite sectarian 
mark (namam). Members of the Vamma gotra of the 
Janappans (Telugu traders) abstain from eating the 
bombadai fish, because, when some of their ancestors 
went to fetch water in a marriage pot, they found a 
number of this fish in the water collected in the pot. 

When a new net is used for the first time by the 
Besthas of Mysore, the first fish which is caught is cut, 
and the net is smeared with its blood. One of the meshes 
of the net is burnt, after incense has been thrown into the 

5. Invertebrates 

The Sahavasis of Mysore are described* as "immi- 
grants, like the Chitpavanas. Sahavasi means co- 
tenant or associate, and the name is said to have been 
earned by the community in the following manner. In 
remote times, a certain Brahman came upon hidden 
treasure, but, to his amazement, the contents appeared in 
his eyes to be all live scorpions. Out of curiosity, he 
hung one of them outside his house. A little while after, 
a woman of inferior caste, who was passing by the house, 
noticed it to be gold, and, upon her questioning him about 
it, the Brahman espoused her, and by her means was able 
to enjoy the treasure. He gave a feast in honour of his 
acquisition of wealth. He was subsequently outcasted for 
his mesalliance with the low caste female, while those who 
ate with him were put under a ban, and thus acquired the 

* " Mysore Census Report," 1891, part i. 235. 


It is commonly said that the scorpion has great 
reverence for the name of Ganesa, because it is supposed 
that when, on seeing a scorpion, one cries out **Pilliyar 
annai " (in the name of Ganesa), the scorpion will suddenly 
stop ; the truth of the matter being that any loud noise 
arrests the movements of the animal.* 

At the temple of Kolaramma at Kolar in Mysore, a 
pit under the entrance is full of scorpions, and the 
customary offerings are silver scorpions. The village 
goddess at Nangavaram in the Trichinopoly district is 
called Sattandi Amman, and her idol represents her 
in the act of weaving a garland of scorpions. It is 
generally supposed that no scorpion can live in this 
village, and that the sacred ashes from Sattandi Amman's 
shrine are a specific for scorpion stings. People sometimes 
carry some of the ashes about with them, in case they 
should be stung.t At Royachoti in the Cuddapah 
district, a festival is held on the occasion of the god going 
hunting. The idol Virabudra is carried to a mantapam 
outside the town, and placed on the ground. Beneath the 
floor of the mantapam there is a large number of 
scorpions. Whilst the god is taking his rest, the 
attendants catch these scorpions, and hold them in their 
hands without being stung. As long as the god remains 
in the mantapam, the scorpions do not sting, but, directly 
he leaves it, they resume their poisonous propensities.^ 
The peon (attendant) in the zoological laboratory of one of 
the Madras colleges would put his hand with impunity 
into a jar of live scorpions, of which he believed that only 
a pregnant female would sting him with hurt. Lieutenant- 

* S. K. Sundara Charlu, Indian Review, 190S) vi., No. 6, 421. 
t " Gazetteer of the Trichinopoly District," 1907, i. 283. 
X "Manual of the Cuddapah District," 1875, 288. 


Colonel D. D. Cunningham records* the case of a certain 
Yogi (religious mendicant), who was insusceptible to the 
stings of scorpions, "which would fix their stings so 
firmly into his fingers that, when he raised and shook 
his hand about, they remained anchored and dangling 
by their tails, whilst neither then nor afterwards did he 
show the slightest sign of pain or inconvenience. The 
immunity may possibly have been the result of innate 
idiosyncratic peculiarity in the constitution of the per- 
former, or more probably represented the outcome of 
artificial exemption acquired at the expense of repeated 
inoculations with the virus, and corresponding develop- 
ment of its antitoxin." 

A sweeper man, who had a mole on his back in shape 
somewhat resembling a scorpion, believed himself to be 
immune against scorpion sting, and would confidently 
insert the poison spine of a live scorpion into his skin. In 
a letter to a medical officer, a Native wrote, that, when a 
pregnant woman is stung by a scorpion, the child which 
is in the womb at the time of such stinging, when 
delivered, does not suffer from the sting of a scorpion, if 
ever it is stung during its lifetime. Some families keep 
in their homes small pots called thelkodukku undi 
(scorpion sting vessels), and occasionally drop therein a 
copper coin, which is supposed to secure immunity against 
scorpion sting. The Sakuna Pakshi mendicants of 
Vizagapatam have a remedy for scorpion sting in the root 
of a plant called thella visari (scorpion antidote), which 
they carry about with them on their rounds. The root 
should be collected on a new-moon day which falls on a 
Sunday. On that day, the Sakuna Pakshi bathes, cuts off 
his loin-cloth, and goes stark-naked to a selected spot, 

* "Plagues and Pleasures of Life in Bengal," 1907, 196-8. 


where he gathers the roots. If a supply thereof is 
required, and the necessary combination of moon and day 
is not forthcoming, the roots should be collected on a 
Sunday or Wednesday. In cases of scorpion sting, 
Dommara medicine -men rub up patent boluses with 
human milk or juice of the milk-hedge plant {Euphorbia 
Tirucallt), and apply them to the parts. Among quaint 
remedies for scorpion sting may be noted, sitting with 
an iron crowbar in the mouth, and the application of 
chopped lizard over the puncture. The excrement of 
lizards fed on scorpions, and the undigested food in the 
stomach of a freshly killed goat, dried and reduced to 
powder, are also believed to be effective remedies. 
There is a belief that scorpions have the power of reviv- 
ing, even after being completely crushed into pulp. We 
are, therefore, warned not to rest secure till the animal has 
actually been cremated. 

The whip-scorpion Thelyphonus is believed to be 
venomous, some Natives stating that it stings like a 
scorpion, others that it ejects a slimy fluid which burns, 
and produces blisters. The caudal flagellum of Thelyphonus^ 
of course, possesses no poison apparatus. 

When the umbilical cord of a Kondh baby sloughs 
off, a spider is burnt in the fire, and its ashes are placed 
in a cocoanut shell, mixed with castor-oil, and applied 
by means of a fowl's feather to the navel. 

The eggs of red ants, boiled in margosa {Melta 
Asadirachtd) oil, are said to be an invaluable remedy 
for children suffering from asthma. 

If a house is infested by mosquitoes, or the 
furniture and bedding by bugs, the names of a hundred 
villages or towns should be written on a piece of paper. 
Care must be taken that all the names end in uru, 
kottai, palayam, etc. The paper is fastened to the 


ceiling- or bed-post, and relief from the pests will be 

The Oriya Haddis, on the evening of the tenth day 
after a death, proceed to some distance from the house, 
and place food and fruits on a cloth spread on the ground. 
They then call the dead man by his name, and eagerly 
wait till some insect settles on the cloth. As soon as 
this happens, the cloth is folded up, carried home, and 
shaken over the floor close to the spot where the house- 
hold gods are kept, so that the insect falls on the sand 
spread on the floor. A light is then placed on the sanded 
floor, and covered with a new pot. After some time, the 
pot is removed, and the sand examined for any marks 
which may be left on it. 

A devil, in the disguise of a dung-beetle of large size, 
is believed to haunt the house wherein a baby has been 
newly born, and the impact of the insect against the 
infant will bring about its instant death. 

The following case was brought to my notice by the 
Chemical Examiner to Government. In Malabar, a 
young man, apparently in good health, walked home 
with two other men after a feast, chewing betel. Arriving 
at his home, he retired to rest, and was found dead in 
the morning. Blood was described as oozing out of his 
eyes. It was given out that the cause of death was an 
insect, which infests betel leaves, and is very poisonous. 
The belief in death from chewing or swallowing the 
veththilai or vettila poochi (betel insect) is a very general 
one, and is so strong that, when a person suffers from 
giddiness, after chewing betel, he is afraid that he has 
partaken of the poisonous insect. Native gentlemen take 
particular care to examine every betel leaf, wipe it with 
a cloth, and smear chunam (lime) over it, before chewing. 
* Madras Mail, 26th January, 1906. 


The poochi is called by Gundert * vettila pampu or 
moorkhan (snake), or vettila thel (scorpion). It has been 
described t as ''a poisonous creature, which lives adhering 
to the betel leaf. Its presence cannot be easily detected, 
and many deaths occur among persons who are in the 
habit of carelessly chewing betel. The poison passes into 
the system through the moisture of the mouth, and death 
ensues within an hour and a half. It generally inhabits 
the female leaf, /.e., the leaf that opens at night. The 
following symptoms are seen when a person is affected 
with the poison : — exhaustion, delirium, copious perspira- 
tion, and change of colour of the skin. Treatment : — 
administer internally the juice of the leaves of a tree 
called arippera. Make the patient suck the milk of the 
breast of a woman, whose baby is more than eighty 
days old." 

A perichaete earthworm was sent to me from Malabar 
as a specimen of vettila poochi, with a note to the effect 
that, when it is accidentally chewed, the chief symptom 
is drawing in of the tongue, and consequent death from 
suffocation. The antidote was said to be salt and water, 
and the leaves of the goa (guava) tree. From South 
Canara, Mr H. Latham sent me a planarian worm, about 
two inches in length, which is believed to be the vettila 
poochi. His camp boy told him of a case in which 
death was said to have resulted from eating one of these 
animals cooked with some jak fruit. 

A few years ago, a scare arose in connection with 
an insect, which was said to have taken up its abode 
in imported German glass bangles, which compete with 
the indigenous industry of the Gazula bangle -makers. 
The insect was reported to lie low in the bangle till it 

* "Malayalam Dictionary," 1872, 983. 
t Kerala Chintamani. 


was purchased, when it would come out and nip the 
wearer, after warning her to get her affairs in order before 
succumbing. A specimen of a broken bangle, from which 
the insect was said to have burst forth, was sent to me. 
But the insect was not forthcoming. 

As a further example of the way in which the opponents 
of a new industry avail themselves of the credulity of the 
Native, I may cite the recent official introduction of the 
chrome-tanning industry in Madras. In connection there- 
with, a rumour spread more or less throughout the 
Presidency that the wearing of chrome-tanned boots or 
sandals gave rise to leprosy, blood poisoning, and failure 
of the eyesight. 



The objection which a high caste Brahman has to being 
seen by a low caste man when he is eating his food is 
based on a belief allied to that of the evil eye. The 
Brahmanical theory of vision, as propounded in the 
sacred writings, and understood by orthodox pandits, 
corresponds with the old corpuscular theory. The low 
caste man being in every respect inferior to the Brahman, 
the matter or subtle substance proceeding from his eye, 
and mixing with the objects seen by him, must of necessity 
be inferior and bad. So food, which is seen by a low 
caste man, in virtue of the radii perniciosi which it has 
received, will contaminate the Brahman. This, it has 
been pointed out,* is "a good illustration of the theory 
propounded by Mr E. S. Hartland at the York meeting 
of the British Association (1906), that both magic and 
religion, in their earliest forms, are based on the con- 
ception of a transmissible personality, the mana of the 
Melanesian races." 

A friend once rode accidentally into a weaver's feast, 
and threw his shadow on their food, and trouble arose 
in consequence. On one occasion, when I was in camp 
at Coimbatore, the Oddes (navvies) being afraid of my 
evil eye, refused to fire a new kiln of bricks for the new 

* Nature, i8th October, 1906. 


club chambers, until I had taken my departure. On 
another occasion, I caught hold of a ladle, to show my 
friend Dr Rivers what were the fragrant contents of a 
pot, in which an Odde woman was cooking the evening 
meal. On returning from a walk, we heard a great noise 
proceeding from the Odde men who had meanwhile 
returned from work, and found the woman seated apart 
on a rock, and sobbing. She had been excommunicated, 
not because I touched the ladle, but because she had 
afterwards touched the pot. After much arbitration, I 
paid up the necessary fine, and she was received back 
into her caste. 

The following passage occurred in an official docu- 
ment, which was sent to Sir M. E. Grant Duff, 
when he was Governor of Madras.* The writer was 
Mr Andrew, C.S. 

" Sir C. Trevelyan visited Walajapet many years ago. 
When there, he naturally asked to see the cloths, carpets, 
etc. Cwhich are manufactured there). Soon after (owing 
to the railway of course), trade began to diminish, and 
to this day, I hear that even the well-to-do traders think 
it was owing to the visit, as they believe that, if a great 
man takes particular notice of a person or place, ill-luck 
will follow. A month ago, I was walking near Ranipet, 
and stopped for a minute to notice a good native house, 
and asked whose it was, etc. A few hours after, the house 
took fire (the owner, after his prayers upstairs, had left a 
light in his room), and the people in the town think that 
the fire was caused by my having noticed the house. So, 
when His Excellency drove through Walajapet last July, 
the bazaar people did not show their best cloths, fearing 
ill-luck would follow, but also because they thought he 
would introduce their trade in carpets, etc., into the Central 
Jail, Vellore, and so ruin them." 

* Grant Duff, " Notes from an Indian Diary, 1S81-1886." 


In villages, strangers are not allowed to be present, 
when the cows are milked. Sudden failure of milk, or 
blood-stained milk, are attributed to the evil eye, to remove 
the influence of which the owner of the affected cow resorts 
to the magician. When the hill Kondhs are threshing 
the crop, strangers may not look on the crop, or speak 
to them, lest their evil eye should be cast on them. If 
a stranger is seen approaching the threshing-floor, the 
Kondhs keep him off by signalling with their hands, 
without speaking. 

In Malabar, a mantram, which is said to be effective 
against the potency of the evil eye, runs as follows : — 
"Salutation to thee, O God! Even as the moon wanes 
in its brightness at the sight of the sun, even as the bird 
chakora (crow-pheasant) disappears at the sight of the 
moon, even as the great Vasuki (king of serpents) 
vanishes at the sight of the chakora, even as the poison 
vanishes from his head, so may the potency of his evil 
eye vanish with thy aid."* In Malabar, fear of the 
evil eye is very general. At the corner of the 
upper storey of almost every Nayar house near a 
road or path is suspended some object, often a doll-like 
hideous creature, on which the eye of the passers-by 
may rest.f 

'*A crop," Mr Logan writes, J ** is being raised in a 
garden visible from the road. The vegetables will never 
reach maturity, unless a bogey of some sort is set up in 
their midst. A cow will stop giving milk, unless a conch 
{Turbinella rapa) shell is tied conspicuously about her 
horns. [Mappilla cart-drivers tie black ropes round the 
neck, or across the faces of their bullocks.] When a 

* L. K. Anantha Krishna Iyer, " The Cochin Tribes and Castes," 
1909, i. 166. 

t F. Fawcett, Madras Museum Bull., 1901, iii., No 3, 309. 
X Malabar, 1887, i. 175. 


house or shop is being built, there surely is to be found 
exposed in some conspicuous position an image, some- 
times of extreme indecency, a pot covered with cabalistic 
signs, a prickly branch of cactus, or what not, to catch the 
evil eye of passers-by, and divert their attention from the 
important work in hand." 

Many of the carved wooden images recall forcibly to 
mind the Horatian satire: — "Glim truncus eram. . . . 
Obscenoque ruber porrectus ab inguine palus. 

For the following note on the evil eye in Malabar, 
I am indebted to Mr S. Appadorai Iyer. 

"It is not the eye alone that commits the mischief, but 
also the mind and tongue. Man is said to do good or 
evil through the mind, word and deed, i.e.^ manasa, vacha, 
and karmana. When a new house is being constructed, 
or a vegetable garden or rice-field are in a flourishing 
condition, the following precautions are taken to ward 
off the evil eye : — 

"(«) In Buildings 

*' I. A pot with black and white marks on it is 
suspended mouth downwards. 

"2. A wooden figure of a monkey, with pendulous 
testicles, is suspended. 

" 3. The figure of a Malayali woman, with protuberant 
breasts, is suspended. 

'* {U) In Gardens and Fields 

" I. A straw figure, covered with black cloth daubed 
with black and white dots, is placed on a long pole. If 
the figure represents a male, it has pendent testicles, and, 
if a female, well developed breasts. Sometimes, male 
and female figures are placed together in an embracing 


*'2. Pots, as described above, are placed on bamboo 

"3. A portion of the skull of a bull, with horns 
attached, is set up on a long pole. 

**The figures, pots, and skulls, are primarily intended 
to scare away crows, stray cattle, and other marauders, and 
secondly to ward off the evil eye. Instances are quoted, in 
which handsome buildings have fallen down, and ripe 
fruits and grain crops have withered through the influence 
of the eye, which has also been held responsible for the 
bursting of a woman's breasts." 

In Madras, human figures, made of broken bricks and 
mortar, are kept permanently in the front of the upstairs 
verandah. Some years ago. Sir George Birdwood 
recorded the flogging, by order of the Police Magistrate 
of Black Town (now George Town), Madras, of a Hindu 
boy for exhibiting an indecent figure in public view. 
What he had explicitly done was to set up, in accordance 
with universal custom, a phallic image before a house that 
was in course of erection by a Hindu gentleman, who was 
first tried under the indictment, but was acquitted, he, the 
owner, not having been the person who had actually 
exhibited the image.* 

Monstrous Priapi, made in straw, with painted clay 
pots for heads, pots smeared with chunam (lime) and 
studded with black dots, or palmyra palm fruits coated 
with chunam, may often be seen set up in the fields, to 
guard the ripening crop. In a note on the Tamil 
Paraiyans, the Rev A. C. Clayton writes as follows : t 

" Charms, in the form of metal cylinders, are worn to 
avoid the baneful influence of the evil eye. To prevent 

* D'Alviella, "The Migration of Symbols," 1894, introduction; and 
Times (London), 3rd September, 1891. 
f Madras Museum Bull., 1906, v., No. 2, 86-7. 



this from affecting the crops, Paraiyans put up scarecrows 
in their fields. These are usually small broken earthen 
pots, whitewashed or covered with spots of whitewash, or 
even adorned with huge clay noses and ears, and made into 
grotesque faces. For the same reason, more elaborate 
figures, made of mud and twigs in human shape, are 
sometimes set up." 

The indecent figures carved on temple cars, are 
intended to avert the evil eye. During temple or 
marriage processions, two huge human figures, male and 
female, made of bamboo wicker-work, are carried in front 
for the same purpose. At the buffalo races in South 
Canara, which take place when the first crop has been 
gathered, there is a procession, which is sometimes 
headed by two dolls represented in coitu borne on a man's 
head. At a race meeting near Mangalore, one of the 
devil-dancers had the genitalia represented by a long 
piece of cloth and enormous testicles. 

Sometimes, in case of illness, a figure is made of rice- 
flour paste, and copper coins are stuck on the head, hands, 
and abdomen thereof. It is waved in front of the sick 
person, taken to a place where three roads or paths meet, 
and left there. At other times, a hole is made in a gourd 
{Benincasa cerifera or Lagenaria vulgaris)^ which is filled 
with turmeric and chunam, and waved round the patient. 
It is then taken to a place where three roads meet, and 

At a ceremony performed in Travancore when epidemic 
disease prevails, an image of Bhadrakali is drawn on the 
ground with powders of five colours, white, yellowy black, 
green, and red. At night, songs are sung in praise of 
that deity by a Tiyattunni and his followers. A member 
of the troupe then plays the part of Bhadrakali in the act 
of murdering the demon Darika, and, in conclusion, waves 



a torch before the inmates of the house, to ward off the 
evil eye, which is the most important item in the whole 
ceremony. The torch is believed to be given by Siva, 
who is worshipped before the light is waved. 

In cases of smallpox, a bunch of nim {Melia Asadir- 
achtd) is sometimes moved from the head to the feet of the 
sick person, with certain incantations, and then twisted and 
thrown away. 

The sudden illness of children is often attributed to the 
evil eye. In such cases, the following remedies are 
considered efficacious : — 

(i) A few sticks from a new unused broom are set fire 
to, waved several times round the child, and placed in a 
corner. With some of the ashes the mother makes a mark 
on the child's forehead. If the broom burns to ashes 
without making a noise, the women cry : *' Look at it. It 
burns without the slightest noise. The creature's eyes are 
really very bad," Abuse is then heaped on the person 
whose eyes are supposed to have an evil influence. 

(2) Some chillies, salt, human hair, nail-cuttings, and 
finely powered earth from the pit of the door-post are 
mixed together, waved three times in front of the child, 
and thrown onto the fire. Woe betide the possessor of 
the evil eye, if no pungent, suffocating smell arises when 
it is burning. 

(3) A piece of burning camphor is waved in front of 
the child. 

(4) Balls of cooked rice, painted red, black, and white 
(with curds), are waved before the child. 

Loss of appetite in children is attributed by mothers to 
the visit of a supposed evil person to the house. On that 
person appearing again, the mother will take a little sand or 
dust from under the visitor's foot, whirl it round the head of 
the child, and throw it on the hearth. If the suspected 


person is not likely to turn up again, a handful of cotton- 
seed, chillies, and dust from the middle of the street, is 
whirled round the child's head, and thrown on the hearth. 
If the chillies produce a strong smell, the evil eye has 
been averted. If they do not do so, the suspect is roundly 
abused by the mother, and never again admitted to the 

Matrons make the faces of children ugly by painting 
two or three black dots on the chin and cheeks, and 
painting the eyelids black with lamp-black paste. It is a 
good thing to frighten any one who expresses admiration 
of one's belongings. For example, if a friend praises 
your son's eyes, you should say to him, ''Look out! 
There is a snake at your feet." If he is frightened, the 
evil eye has been averted. It is said* that "you will 
cause mortal offence to a Hindu lady, should you 
remark of her child ' What a nice baby you have,' 
or 'How baby has grown since I saw him last.' She 
makes it a rule to speak deprecatingly of her child, and 
represents it as the victim of non-existent ailments, so 
that your evil eye shall not affect it. But, should she 
become aware that, in spite of her precautions, you have 
defiled it with your admiration, she will lose no time in 
counteracting the effect of drishtidosham. One of the 
simplest methods adopted for this purpose is to take a 
small quantity of chillies and salt in the closed palm, and 
throw it into the fire, after waving it thrice round the head 
of the child, to the accompaniment of incantations. If no 
pungent odour is apparent, it is an indication that the 
dosham has been averted." 

At the Sakalathi festival of the Badagas of the 
Nilgiris, a cake is made, on which are placed a little rice 
and butter. Three wicks steeped in castor-oil are put in 
* Madras Mail^ 26th January, 1906. 


it, and lighted. The cake is then waved round the heads 
of all the children of the house, taken to a field, and 
thrown thereon with the words " Sakalathi has come." At 
the Suppidi ceremony, which every Nattukottai Chetti 
(Tamil banker) youth has to perform before marriage, 
the young man goes to the temple. On his return home, 
and at the entrance of Nattukottai houses which he 
passes, rice-lamps are waved before him. 

The custom of making a "wave offering " * at puberty 
and marriage ceremonies is very widespread. Thus, 
when a Tangalan Paraiyan girl attains puberty, she is 
bathed on the ninth day, and ten small lamps of flour 
paste, called drishti mavu vilakku, are put on a sieve, 
and waved before her. Then coloured water (arati or 
alam,) and burning camphor, are waved in front of her. 
At the puberty ceremonies of the Tamil Maravans, the 
girl comes out of seclusion on the sixteenth day, bathes, 
and returns to her house. At the threshold, her future 
husband's sister is standing, and averts the evil eye by 
waving betel leaves, plantains, cooked flour paste, a vessel 
filled with water, and an iron measure containing rice with 
a style stuck in it. 

At a Palli (Tamil cultivator) wedding, water coloured 
with turmeric and chunam (arati) is waved round the 
bride and bridegroom. Later on, when the bride is about 
to enter the home of the bridegroom, coloured water and 
a cocoanut are waved in front of the newly married couple. 
At a marriage among the Pallans (Tamil cultivators), 
when the contracting couple sit on the dais, coloured 
water, or balls of coloured rice with lighted wicks, are 
waved round them. Water is poured into their hands 
from a vessel, and sprinkled over their heads. The 
vessel is then waved before them. During a Koliyan 
* Leviticus, viii. 29. 


(Tamil weaver) wedding coloured water, into which leaves 
of Bauhinia variegata are thrown, are waved. At a 
marriage among the Khatris (weavers), when the bride- 
groom arrives at the house of the bride, her mother comes 
out, and waves coloured water, and washes his eyes with 
water. At a Tangalan Paraiyan wedding, during a 
ceremony for removing the evil eye, a pipal {Ficus religiosa) 
leaf is held over the foreheads of the bridal couple, 
with its tail downwards, and all the close relations pour 
milk over it, so that it trickles over their faces. During 
a marriage among the Sembadavans (Tamil fishermen), 
the bride and bridegroom go through a ceremony called 
sige kazhippu, with the object of warding off the evil eye, 
which consists in pouring a few drops of milk on their 
foreheads from a fig or betel leaf. At a Kapu (Telugu 
cultivator) wedding, the Ganga idol, which is kept in the 
custody of a Tsakala (washerman), is brought to the 
marriage house. At the entrance thereto, red-coloured 
food, coloured water, and incense, are waved before it. 
During a marriage among the Balijas (Telugu traders), 
the bridegroom is stopped at the entrance to the room in 
which the marriage pots are kept by a number of married 
women, and has to pay a small sum for the arati (coloured 
water), which is waved by the women. At a Bilimagga 
(weaver) wedding in South Canara, the bridegroom's 
father waves incense in front of a cot and brass vessel, 
and lights and arati water are waved before the 

At a royal marriage in Travancore, in 1906, a bevy 
of Nayar maidens, quaintly dressed, walked in front of 
the Rani's palanquin. They were intended as Drishti 
Pariharam, to ward off the evil eye. 

Sometimes, in Malabar, when a person, is believed to 
be under the influence of a devil or the evil eye, salt, 



chillies, tamarinds, oil, mustard, cocoanut, and a few pice 
(copper coins), are placed in a vessel, waved round the 
head of the affected individual, and given to a Nayadi,* 
whose curse is asked for. There is this peculiarity about 
a Nayadi's curse, that it always has the opposite effect. 
Hence, when he is asked to curse one who has given him 
alms, he complies by invoking misery and evil upon him. 
The terms used by him for such invocations are attupo 
or mutinjupo (to perish), adimondupo (to be a slave), etcf 

During one of my tours, a gang of Yerukalas absolutely 
refused to sit on a chair, and I had perforce to measure 
their heads while they squatted on the ground. To get 
rid of my evil influence, they subsequently went through 
the ceremony of waving red-coloured water and sacrificing 

During a marriage among the Madigas (Telugu 
Pariahs), a sheep or goat is sacrificed to the marriage 
pots. The sacrificer dips his hand in the blood of the 
animal, and impresses the blood on his palms on the 
wall near the door leading to the room in which the 
pots are kept. This is said to avert the evil eye. Among 
the Telugu Malas, a few days before a wedding, two 
marks are made, one on each side of the door, with oil 
and charcoal, for the same purpose. At Kadur, in the 
Mysore Province, I once saw impressions of the hand 
on the walls of Brahman houses. Impressions in red 
paint of a hand with outspread fingers may be seen on 
the walls of mosques and Muhammadan buildings.! 

When cholera, or other epidemic disease, breaks out, 

* The Nayadis are a polluting class, whose approach within 300 feet 
is said to contaminate a Brahman. 

t L. K. Anantha Krishna Iyer, "The Cochin Tribes and Castes," 
1909, i. 55-6. 

J M. J. Walhouse,/<3«r«. Anthrop. Inst., 1890, xix. 56. 


Muhammadans leave the imprint of the hand dipped in 
sandal paste on the door. When a Tamil Paraiyan 
dies, an impression of the dead man's palm is sometimes 
taken in cow-dung, and stuck on the wall.* 

The failure of a criminal expedition of the Koravas 
is said by Mr F. Fawcett,t to be "generally attributed 
to the evil eye, or the evil tongue, whose bad effects 
are evinced in many ways. If the excursion has been 
for house - breaking, the house - breaking implement is 
often soldered at its sharp end with panchalokam (five 
metals), to counteract the effect of the evil eye. The 
evil tongue is a frequent cause of failure. It consists 
in talking evil of others, or harping on probable mis- 
fortunes. There are various ways of removing its 
unhappy effects. A mud figure of a man is made on 
the ground, and thorns are placed over the mouth. 
This is the man with the evil tongue. Those who 
have suffered walk round it, crying out and beating 
their mouths ; the greater the noise, the better the effect. 
Cutting the neck of a fowl half through and allowing it 
to flutter about, or inserting a red hot splinter in its 
anus to madden it with pain, are considered to be 
effective, while, if a cock should crow after its neck has 
been cut, calamities are averted." 

* "Gazetteer of the Tanjore District," 1906, i. 89. 
I " Note on the Koravas," 1908. 



Very closely connected with the subject of vows and 
votive offerings is that of the worship of snakes, to which 
vows are made and offerings dedicated. 

In a note on serpent worship in Malabar,* it is stated 
that "even to-day some corner of the garden of every 
respectable tarawad f is allotted for snakes. Here a few 
trees are allowed to grow wild, and under them, on a 
masonry platform, one or more sculptured granite stones 
representing hooded serpents (cobras) are consecrated and 
set up. The whole area is held sacred, and a mud lamp 
is lighted there every evening with religious regularity. 
I have seen eggs, milk, and plantains offered in the 
evening, after the lamp has been lit, at these shrines, 
to invoke the serpent's aid on particular occasions. Such 
is the veneration in which these shrines are held that 
Cherumars (agrestic serfs) and other low caste aborigines, 
who are believed to pollute by their very approach, are 
absolutely interdicted from getting within the precincts. 
Should, however, any such pollute the shrine, the resident 
snake or its emissary is said to apprise the owner of the 
defilement by creeping to the very threshold of his house, 
and remaining there until the Karanavan,J or other 

* Madras Standard^ 2nd June, 1903. 

t A tarawad means a family, consisting of all the descendants in 
the female line of one common female ancestor. 
X The senior male in a tarawad or tarwad. 



managing member of the family promises to have it duly 
purified by a Brahman." 

Concerning snake worship in Malabar, Mr C. 
Karunakara Menon writes * as follows : — 

"The existence of snake groves is said to owe its 
origin to Sri Parasurama. [According to tradition, 
Parasurama was an avatar of Vishnu, who destroyed 
the Kshatriya Rajas, and retired to Gokarnam in 
Canara. He called on Varuna, the god of water, to 
give him some land. Varuna caused the sea to recede, 
and thus the land called Kerala (including Malabar) 
came into existence. Brahmans were brought from 
Northern India to colonise the new country, but they 
ran away from fear of the snakes, of which it was full. 
Parasurama then brought in a further consignment of 
Brahmans from the north, and divided the country into 
sixty -four Brahmanical colonies.] Parasurama advised 
that a part of every house should be set apart for snakes 
as household gods. The (snake) groves have the appear- 
ance of miniature reserved forests, as they are considered 
sacred, and there is a strong prejudice against cutting 
down trees therein. The groves contain a snake king 
and queen made of granite, and a tower-like structure, 
made of laterite,"f for the sacred snakes. Snakes were, in 
olden days, considered a part of the property. [Transfer 
deeds made special mention of the family serpent as one 
of the articles sold along with the freehold.] 

" When a snake is seen inside, or in the neighbourhood 
of the house, great care is taken to catch it without giving 
it the least pain. Usually a stick is placed gently on 
its head, and the mouth of an earthenware pot is shown 
to it. When it is in, the pot is loosely covered with a 
cocoanut shell, to allow of free breathing. It is then 
taken to a secluded spot, the pot is destroyed, and the 

* See Calcutta Review^ July, 1901, cxiii. 21-5. 

t Laterite is a reddish geological formation, found all over Southern 


snake set at liberty. It is considered to be polluted by- 
being caught in this way, and holy water is sometimes 
poured over it. Killing a snake is considered a grievous 
sin, and even to see a snake with its head bruised is 
believed to be a precursor of calamities. Pious Malayalis 
(natives of Malabar), when they see a snake killed in 
this way, have it burnt with the full solemnities attendant 
on the cremation of a high-caste Hindu. The carcase 
is covered with a piece of silk, and burnt in sandalwood. 
A Brahman is hired to observe pollution for some days, 
and elaborate funeral oblations are offered to the dead 

In Travancore there was formerly a judicial ordeal 
by snake - bite. The accused thrust his hand into a 
mantle, in which a cobra was wrapped up. If it bit 
him, he was declared guilty, if not innocent. 

In connection with snake worship in Malabar, Mr 
Upendra Pai gives the following details.* Among snakes 
none is more dreaded than the cobra {Naia trtpudians), 
which accordingly has gathered round it more fanciful 
superstitions than any other snake. This has led to 
cobra worship, which is often performed with a special 
object in view. In some parts of the country, every 
town or village has its images of cobras rudely carved on 
stone. These cobra stones, as they are termed, are 
placed either on little platforms of stone specially erected 
for them, or at the base of some tree, preferably a holy 
fig.f On the fifth day of the lunar month Shravana, 
known as the Nagarapanchami — that is, the fifth day of 
the nagas or serpents — these stones are first washed ; 

* Madras Christian Coll. Mag., 1895, x"i-> ^o- '> 24-5- 
t The pipal or aswatha ( Fiats religiosa). Many villages have such 
a tree with a platform erected round it, on which are carved figures 
of the elephant god Ganesa, and cobras. Village panchayats (councils) 
are often held on this platform. 


then milk, curds, ghee (clarified butter), and cocoanut 
water, are poured over them. Afterwards they are 
decorated with flowers, and offerings are made to them. 
The cobra stone is also worshipped at other times by 
those who have no male children, in order to obtain 
such. But to establish new images of cobras in suit- 
able places is regarded as a surer method of achieving 
this object. For this certain preliminary ceremonies have 
to be gone through, and, when once the image has 
been established, it is the duty of the establisher to see 
that it is properly worshipped at least once a year, on 
the Nagarapanchami day. The merit obtained is pro- 
portionate to the number of images thus worshipped, so 
that pious people, to obtain a great deal of merit, and 
at the same time to save themselves the expense of 
erecting many stone images, have several images drawn, 
each on a tiny bit of a thin plate of gold or silver. These 
images are handed over to some priest, to be kept along 
with other images, to which daily worship is rendered. 
In this way, great merit is supposed to be obtained. It 
is also believed that such worship will destroy all danger 
proceeding from snakes. The cobra being thus an object 
of worship, it is a deadly sin to kill or maim it. For 
the cobra is in the popular imagination a Brahman, and 
there is no greater sin than that of killing a Brahman. 
Accordingly, if any one kills a cobra, he is sure to contract 
leprosy, which is the peculiar punishment of those who 
have either killed a cobra, or have led to the destruction 
of its eggs by digging in or ploughing up soil which it 
haunts, or setting on fire jungle or grass in the midst 
of which it is known to live and breed. 

In a note on snake worship, Mr R. Kulathu Iyer 
writes as follows : * — 

* Indian Patriot^ 13th January, 1908. 


" In Travancore there is a place called Mannarsala, 
which is well known for its serpent worship. It is the 
abode of the snake king and queen, and their followers. 
The grove and its premises cover about i6 acres. In 
the middle of this grove are two small temples dedicated 
to the snake king and queen. There are also thousands 
of snakes of granite, representing the various followers of 
the king and queen. Just to the northern side of the 
temple there is a house, the abode of the Nampiathy,* 
who performs pooja (worship) in the temple. In caste he 
is lower in grade than a Brahmin. The temple has paddy 
(rice) fields and estates of its own, and also has a large 
income from various sources. There is an annual festival 
at this temple, known as Ayilyam festival, which is cele- 
brated in the months of Kanny and Thulam (September 
and October). A large number of people assemble for 
worship with offerings of gold, silver, salt, melons, etc. 
The sale proceeds of these offerings after a festival would 
amount to a pretty large sum. On the day previous to 
the Ayilyam festival, the temple authorities spend some- 
thing like three thousand rupees in feeding the Brahmins. 
A grand feast is given to nearly three thousand Brahmins 
at the house of the Nampiathy. On the Ayilyam day, all 
the serpent gods are taken in procession to the illam (house 
of the Nampiathy) by the eldest female member of the 
house, and offerings of neerumpalum (a mixture of rice- 
flour, turmeric, ghee, water of tender cocoanuts, etc.), 
boiled rice, and other things, are made to the serpent 
gods. It is said that the neerumpalum mixture would 
be poured into a big vessel, and kept inside a room for 
three days, when the vessel would be found empty. It 
is supposed that the serpents drink the contents. As 
regards the origin of this celebrated grove, Mr S. Krishna 
Iyer, in one of his contributions to the Calcutta Quarterly 
Review, says that ' the land from Avoor on the south to 
Alleppy on the north was the site of the Khandava forest 

* Elayads, Ilayatus, or Nambiyatiris, are priests at most of the snake 
groves on the west coast. 


celebrated in the Mahabaratha ; that, when Arjuna set 
fire to it, the serpents fled in confusion and reached 
Mannarasalay, and there prayed to the gods for protec- 
tion ; that thereupon the earth around was miraculously 
cooled down, and hence the name mun-1-ari-l-sala, the 
place where the earth was cooled. After the serpents 
found shelter from the Khandava fire, an ancestress of 
the Nambiathy had a vision calling upon her to dedicate 
the groves and some land to the Naga Raja (snake king), and 
build a temple therein. These commands were obeyed forth- 
with, and thenceforward the Naga Raja became their family 
deity.' In the ' Travancore State Manual,' Mr Nagam 
Iyer, referring to Mannarsala, says that ' a member of this 
Mannarsala illam married a girl of the Vettikod illam, 
where the serpents were held in great veneration. The 
girl's parents, being very poor, had nothing to give in the 
way of dowry, so they gave her one of the stone idols of 
the serpent, of which there were many in the house. The 
girl took care of this idol, and worshipped it regularly. 
Soon she became pregnant, and gave birth to a male child 
and a snake. The snake child grew up, and gave rise 
to a numerous progeny. They were all removed to a 
spot where the present kavu (grove) is. In this kavu there 
are now four thousand stone idols representing snake 
gods.' Such is the origin of this celebrated grove of 
Central Travancore." 

On the bank of the river separating Cranganore from 
the rest of the Native State of Cochin is the residence of 
a certain Brahman called the Pampanmekkat (snake 
guardian) Nambudri, who has been called the high priest 
of serpent worship. It is recorded * by Mr Karunakara 
Menon that, '*a respectable family at Angadipuram (in 
Malabar) sold their ancestral house to a supervisor in the 
Local Fund P. W. D. (Public Works Department). He cut 
down the snake grove, and planted it up. Some members 

* Calcutta Review, July, 1901, cxiii. 21. 


of the vendor's family began to suffer from some cutaneous 
complaint. As usual the local astrologer was called in, 
and he attributed the ailment to the ire of the aggrieved 
family serpents. These men then went to the Brahmin 
house of Pampu Mekat. This Namboodri family is a 
special favourite of the snakes. When a new serpent 
grove has to be created, or if it is found necessary to 
remove a grove from one place to another, the ritual is 
entirely in the hands of these people. When a family 
suffers from the wrath of the serpents, they generally go to 
this Namboodri house. The eldest woman of the house 
would hear the grievances of the party, and then, taking 
a vessel full of gingelly {Sesaniwii) oil, and looking into 
it, would give out the directions to be observed in 
satisfying the serpents." 

Concerning the Pampanmekkat Nambudri, Mr Gopal 
Panikkar writes* that, *' it is said that this Nambudri 
household is full of cobras, which find their abode in every 
nook and corner of it. The inmates can scarcely move 
about without placing their feet upon one of these serpents. 
Owing to the magic influence of the family, the serpents 
cannot and will not injure them. The serpents are said to 
be always at the beck and call of the members of this 
Nambudri family, and render unquestioned obedience to 
their commands. They watch and protect the interests 
of the family in the most zealous spirit." 

It is said I that, ''every year the Nambudri receives 
many offerings in the shape of golden images of snakes, for 
propitiating the serpent god to ward off calamity, or to 
enlist its aid in the cure of a disease, or for the attainment 
of a particular object. It is well known that the Nambudri 
has several hundreds of these images and other valuable 

* '' Malabar and its Folk," Madras, 2nd ed., 150. 
t Madras Standard^ 2nd June, 1903. 


offerings, the collection of centuries, amounting in value to 
over a lakh of rupees. This aroused the cupidity of a gang 
of dacoits (robbers), who resolved some years ago to ease 
the Nambudri of a great portion of this treasure. On a 
certain night, armed with lathies (sticks), slings, torches, 
and other paraphernalia, the dacoits went to the illam, 
and, forcibly effecting an entrance, bound the senior 
Nambutri's hands and feet, and threw him on his breast. 
This precaution taken, the keys of the treasure-room were 
demanded, the alternative being further personal injury. 
To save himself from further violence, the keys were 
surrendered. The dacoits secured all the gold images, 
leaving the silver ones severely alone, and departed. But, 
directly they went past the gate of the house, many snakes 
chased them, and, in the twinkling of an eye, each of the 
depredators had two snakes coiled round him, others 
investing the gang, and threatening, with uplifted hoods 
and hisses, to dart at them. The dacoits remained stunned 
and motionless. Meantime, the authorities were com- 
municated with, and the whole gang was taken into 
custody. It is said that the serpents did not budge an 
inch until after the arrival of the officers." 

Other marvellous stories of the way in which the 
snakes carry out their trust are narrated. 

A section of Ambalavasis or temple servants in Malabar, 
called Teyyambadis, the members of which dance and sing 
in Bhagavati temples, perform a song called Nagapattu 
(song in honour of snakes) in private houses, which is 
supposed to be effective in procuring offspring.* 

In many houses of the Tiyans of Malabar, offerings are 

made annually to a bygone personage named Kunnath 

Nayar, and to his friend and disciple, Kunhi Rayan, a 

Mappilla (Muhammadan). According to the legend, the 

* " Gazetteer of Malabar," iqo8, i. 112. 


Nayar worshipped the kite until he obtained command 
and control over all the snakes in the land. There are 
Mappilla devotees of Kunnath Nayar and Kunhi Rayan, 
who exhibit snakes in a box, and collect alms for a snake 
mosque near Manarghat at the foot of the Nilgiri hills. 
A class of snake-charmers in Malabar, called Kuravan, 
go about the country exhibiting snakes. It is considered 
to be a great act of piety to purchase these animals, and 
set them at liberty. The vagrant Kakkalans of Travancore, 
who are said to be identical with the Kakka Kuravans, 
are unrivalled at a dance called pampatam (snake dance). 

The Pulluvans of Malabar are astrologers, medicine- 
men, and priests and singers in snake groves. According 
to a legend * they are descended from a male and female 
servant, who were exiled by a Brahman in connection 
with the rescuing by the female of a snake which escaped 
when the Gandava forest was set on fire by Agni, the 
god of fire. Another legend records how a five-hooded 
snake fled from the burning forest, and was taken home 
by a woman, and placed in a room. When her husband 
entered the room, he found an ant-hill, from which the 
snake issued forth, and bit him. As the result of the bite, 
the man died, and his widow was left without means of 
support. The snake consoled her, and devised a plan, 
by which she could maintain herself. She was to go 
from house to house, and cry out, "Give me alms, and 
be saved from snake-poisoning." The inmates would give 
alms, and the snakes, which might be troubling them, 
would cease to annoy. For this reason, the Pulluvas, 
when they go with their pot-drum (pulluva kudam) to a 
house, are asked to play, and sing songs which are accept- 
able to the snake gods, in return for which they receive a 
present of money. A Pulluvan and his wife preside at 

* See *' Men and Women of India," February, 1906. 



the ceremony called Pamban Tullal, which is carried out 
with the object of propitiating the snake gods. Concerning 
this ceremony, Mr L. K. Anantha Krishna Iyer writes as 
follows * : — 

"A pandal (booth) supported by four poles driven 
into the ground is put up for the purpose, and the tops 
of the poles are connected with a network of strings, over 
which a silk or red cloth is spread to form a canopy. The 
pandal is well decorated, and the floor below it is slightly 
raised and smoothed. A hideous figure of the size of a 
big serpent is drawn in rice-flour, turmeric {Curmma longa)^ 
kuvva {Curcuma angustifolia), powdered charcoal, and a 
green powder. These five powders are essential, for their 
colours are visible on the necks of serpents. Some rice 
is scattered on the floor and on the sides, and ripe and 
green cocoanuts are placed on a small quantity of rice 
and paddy (unhusked rice) on each side. A puja for 
Ganapathi (the elephant god) is performed, to see that 
the whole ceremony terminates well. A good deal of 
frankincense is burned, and a lamp is placed on a plate, 
to add to the purity, sanctity, and solemnity of the 
occasion. The members of the house go round the pandal 
as a token of reverence, and take their seats close by. 
It often happens that the members of several neighbour- 
ing families take part in the ceremony. The women, 
from whom devils have to be cast out, bathe and take 
their seats on the western side, each with a flower-pod 
of the areca palm. The Pulluvan, with his wife or 
daughter, begins his shrill musical tunes (on serpents), 
vocal and instrum.ental alternately. As they sing, the 
young female members appear to be influenced by the 
modulation of the tunes and the smell of the perfumes. 
They gradually move their heads in a circle, which soon 
quickens, and the long locks of hair are soon let loose. 
These movements appear to keep time with the PuUuvan's 
music. In their unconscious state, they beat upon the 

* "The Cochin Tribes and Castes," 1909, i. 153-4. 


floor, and wipe off the figure drawn. As soon as this is 
done, they go to a serpent grove close by, where there 
may be a few stone images of serpents, before which 
they prostrate themselves. They now recover their 
consciousness, and take milk, water of the green cocoa- 
nut, and plantain fruits, and the ceremony is over." 

In connection with the Pamban Tullal, Mr Gopal 
Panikkar writes* that ''sometimes the gods appear in the 
bodies of all these females, and sometimes only in those of 
a select few, or none at all. The refusal of the gods to 
enter into such persons is symbolical of some want of 
cleanliness in them ; which contingency is looked upon as 
a source of anxiety to the individual. It may also suggest 
the displeasure of these gods towards the family, in respect 
of which the ceremony is performed. In either case, such 
refusal on the part of the gods is an index of their 
ill-will or dissatisfaction. In cases where the gods refuse 
to appear in any one of those seated for the purpose, the 
ceremony is prolonged until the gods are so propitiated 
as to constrain them to manifest themselves. Then, after 
the lapse of the number of days fixed for the ceremony, 
and, after the will of the serpent gods is duly expressed, 
the ceremonies close." 

Sometimes, it is said, it may be considered necessary 
to rub away the figure as many as one hundred and 
one times, in which case the ceremony is prolonged over 
several weeks. Each time that the snake design is 
destroyed, one or two men, with torches in their hands, 
perform a dance, keeping step to the Pulluvan's music. 
The family may eventually erect a small platform or 
shrine in a corner of their grounds, and worship at it 
annually. The snake deity will not, it is believed, 
manifest himself if any of the persons or articles required 
* " Malabar and its Folk," Madras, 2nd ed., 147-8. 


for the ceremony are impure, e.g.^ if the pot-drum has 
been polluted by the touch of a menstruating female. 
The Pulluvan, from whom a drum was purchased for 
the Madras Museum, was very reluctant to part with it, 
lest it should be touched by an impure woman. In 
addition to the pot-drum, the Pulluvans play on a lute 
with snakes painted on the reptile skin, which is used 
in lieu of parchment. The skin, in a specimen which I 
acquired, is apparently that of the big lizard Varanus 
bengalensis. The lute is played with a bow, to which a 
metal bell is attached. 

In the " Madras Census Report," 1871,* Surgeon-Major 
Cornish states that there is a place near Vaisarpadi, close 
to Madras, in which the worship of the living snakes 
draws crowds of votaries, who make holiday excursions 
to the temple, generally on Sundays, in the hope of 
seeing the snakes, which are preserved in the temple 
grounds ; and, he adds, probably as long as the desire 
of offspring is a leading characteristic of the Indian 
people, so long will the worship of the serpent, or of 
snake-stones, be a popular cult. He describes further 
how, at Rajahmundry in the Telugu country, he came 
across an old ant-hill by the side of a public road, on 
which was placed a stone representing a cobra, and the 
ground all round was stuck over with pieces of wood 
carved very rudely in the shape of a snake. These were 
the offerings left by devotees at the abode taken up by 
an old snake, who would occasionally come out of his 
hole, and feast on the eggs and ghi (clarified butter) left 
for him by his adorers. Around this place he saw many 
women who had come to pray at the shrine. If they 
chanced to see the cobra, the omen was interpreted favour- 
ably, and their prayers for progeny would be granted. 

* Vol. i. 105. 


Concerning snake worship in the Tamil country, Mr 
W. Francis writes as follows * : — 

** A vow is taken by childless wives to instal a serpent 
(nagapratishtai), if they are blessed with offspring. The 
ceremony consists in having a figure of a serpent cut in 
a stone slab, placing it in a well for six months, giving 
it life (pranapratishtai) by reciting mantrams and per- 
forming other ceremonies over it, and then setting it up 
under a pipal tree {Ficus religiosa), which has been married 
to a margosa {Melia Azadirachtd). Worship, which con- 
sists mainly in going round the tree io8 times, is then 
performed to it for the next forty-five days. Similar 
circumambulations will also bring good luck in a general 
way, if carried out subsequently." 

It is further recorded by Mr F. R. Hemingway t that, 
" Brahmans and the higher Vellalans think that children 
can be obtained by worshipping the cobra. Vellalans and 
Kalians perform the worship on a Friday. Among the 
Vellalans, this is generally after the Pongal festival. The 
Vellalans make an old woman cry aloud in the backyard 
that a sacrifice will be made to the cobra next day, and 
that they pray it will accept the offering. At the time 
of sacrifice, cooked jaggery (crude sugar) and rice, burn- 
ing ghl in the middle of rice-flour, and an ^g%', are 
offered to the cobra, and left in the backyard for its 
acceptance. The Pallis annually worship the cobra by 
pouring milk on an ant-hill, and sacrificing a fowl near 
it. Valaiyans, Pallans, and Paraiyans sacrifice a fowl in 
their own backyards." 

In the Tamil country, children whose birth is attributed 
to a vow taken by childless mothers to offer a snake cut 
on a stone slab, sometimes have a name bearing reference 

* " Gazetteer of the South Arcot District," 1906, i. 102. 
t "Gazetteer of the Tanjore District," 1906, i. ^o. 


to snakes given to them, i.e., Seshachalam,* Seshamma, 
Nagappa, or Nagamma. Naga, Nagasa, or Nageswara, 
occurs as the name of a totemistic exogamous sept or gotra 
of various classes in Ganjam and Vizagapatam. In the 
Odiya caste of farmers in Ganjam, members of the 
Nagabonso sept claim to be descendants of Nagamuni, 
the serpent rishi. Nagavadam (cobra's hood) is the name 
of a subdivision of the Tamil Pallis, who wear an 
ornament called nagavadam, representing a cobra, in 
the dilated lobes of the ears. 

Ant {i.e., white-ant, Termes) hills, which have been 
repeatedly referred to in this chapter, are frequently 
inhabited by cobras, and offerings of milk, fruit, and 
flowers are consequently made to them on certain 
ceremonial occasions. Thus it is recorded,! by the Rev. 
J. Cain that when he was living in Ellore Fort in the 
Godavari district, in September, 1873, '*a large crowd 
of people, chiefly women and children, came in, and 
visited every white-ant hill, poured upon each their 
offerings of milk, flowers, and fruit, to the intense 
delight of all the crows in the neighbourhood. The 
day was called the Nagula Chaturdhi — Chaturdhi, the 
fourth day of the eighth lunar month — and was said 
to be the day when Vasuki, Takshaka, and the rest of 
the thousand Nagulu were born to Kasyapa Brahma by 
his wife Kadruva.J The other chief occasions when these 
ant-hills are resorted to are when people are affected with 
earache or pains in the eye, and certain skin diseases. 
They visit the ant-hills, pour out milk, cold rice, fruit, etc., 
and carry away part of the earth, which they apply to the 

* Sesha or Adisesha is the serpent, on which Vishnu is often repre- 
sented as reclining. 

t " Ind. Ant.," 1876, v. x88. ^ 

X S(€ the Skanda Purana. 


troublesome member, and, if they afterwards call in a 
Brahman to repeat a mantra or two, they feel sure the 
complaint will soon vanish. Many parents first cut their 
children's hair near one of these hillocks, and offer the 
first fruits of the hair to the serpents residing there." 

The colossal Jain figure of Gomatesvara, Gummatta, 
or Gomata Raya, at Sravana Belgola in Mysore,* is re- 
presented as surrounded by white-ant hills, from which 
snakes are emerging, and with a climbing plant twining 
itself round the legs and arms. 

On the occasion of the snake festival in the Telugu 
country, the Boya women worship the Nagala Swami 
(snake god) by fasting, and pouring milk into the holes 
of white-ant hills. By this a double object is fulfilled. 
The ant-hill is a favourite dwelling of the cobra, and 
was, moreover, the burial-place of Valmiki, from whom 
the Boyas claim to be descended. Valmiki was the 
author of the Ramayana, and is believed to have done 
penance for so long in one spot that a white-ant hill 
grew up round him. On the Nagarapanchami day, 
Lingayats worship the image of a snake made of earth 
from a snake's hole with offerings of milk, rice, cocoanuts, 
flowers, etc. During the month Aswija, Lingayat girls 
collect earth from ant-hills, and place it in a heap at 
the village temple. Every evening they go there with 
wave-offerings, and worship the heap. At the Dipavali 
festival,! the Gamallas (Telugu toddy -drawers) bathe in 
the early morning, and go in wet clothes to an ant-hill, 
before which they prostrate themselves, and pour a little 
water into one of the holes. Round the hill they wind 
five turns of cotton thread, and return home. Sub- 

* Other colossal statues of Gummatta are at Karkal and Venur or 
Yenur in South Canara. 

t The feast of lights (dipa, lights, avali, a row). 


sequently they come once more to the ant-hill with a 
lamp made of flour paste. Carrying the light, they go 
three or five times round the hill, and throw split pulse 
{Phaseolus Mungo) into one of the holes. On the following 
morning they again go to the hill, pour milk into it, 
and snap the threads wound round it. 

The famous temple of Subramanya in South Canara is 
said to have been in charge of the Subramanya Stanikas 
(temple servants), till it was wrested from them by the 
Shivalli Brahmans. In former times, the privilege of 
sticking a golden ladle into a heap of food piled up in 
the temple on the Shasti day is said to have belonged 
to the Stanikas. They also brought earth from an ant- 
hill on the previous day. Food from the heap, and some 
of the earth, are received as sacred articles by devotees 
who visit the sacred shrine. 

At the Smasanakollai festival in honour of the goddess 
Ankalamma at Malayanur, some thousands of people 
congregate at the temple. In front of the stone idol is 
a large ant-hill, on which two copper idols are placed, 
and a brass vessel is placed at the base of the hill, to 
receive the various offerings. 

At a wedding among the nomad Lambadis, the bride 
and bridegroom pour milk into an ant-hill, and offer 
cocoanuts, milk, etc., to the snake which lives therein. 
During the marriage ceremonies of the Dandasis (village 
watchmen in Ganjam), a fowl is sacrificed at an ant-hill. 
At a Bedar (Canarese cultivator) wedding, the earth from 
an ant-hill is spread near five water-pots, and on it are 
scattered some paddy (unhusked rice) and dhal {Cajanus 
indicus) seeds. The spot is visited later on, and the seeds 
should have sprouted. 



In addition to the observance of penances and fasting, 
Hindus of all castes, high and low, make vows and 
offerings to the gods, with the object of securing their 
good-will or appeasing their anger. By the lower castes, 
offerings of animals — fowls, sheep, goats, or buffaloes — are 
made, and the gods whom they seek to propitiate are 
minor deities, e.g., Ellamma or Muneswara, to whom 
animal sacrifices are acceptable.* The higher castes 
usually perform vows to Venkateswara of Tirupati, Sub- 
ramanya of Palni, Viraraghava of Tiruvallur, Tirunara- 
yana of Melkote, and other celebrated gods. But they 
may, if afflicted with serious illness, at times, as at the 
leaf festival at Periyapalayam (p. 148), seek the good 
offices of minor deities. 

**A shrine," Mr F. Fawcett writes,t *'to which the 
Malayalis (inhabitants of Malabar), Nayars included, resort 
is that of Subramaniya at Palni in the north-west of the 
Madura district. Not only are vows paid to this shrine, 
but men, letting their hair grow for a year after their 
father's death, proceed to have it cut there. The plate 
shows an ordinary Palni pilgrim. The arrangement which 
he is carrying is called a kavadi (portable shrine). There 

* See Bishop Whitehead, " The Village Deities of Southern India," 
Madras Museum Bull., 1907, v. No. 3. 
t Ibid., 1901, iii. No. 3, 270-1. 



are two kinds of kavadi, a milk kavadi containing milk, 
and a fish kavadi containing fish. The vow may be made 
in respect of either, each being appropriate to certain 
circumstances. [Miniature silver kavadis, and miniature 
crowns, are sometimes offered by pilgrims to the god.] 
When the time comes near for the pilgrim to start for 
Palni, he dresses in reddish-orange clothes, shoulders his 
kavadi, and starts out. Together with a man ringing a 
bell, and perhaps one with a tom-tom, with ashes on his 
face, he assumes the role of a beggar. The well-to-do 
are inclined to reduce the beggar period to the minimum, 
but a beggar every votary must be, and as a beggar he 
goes to Palni in all humbleness and humiliation, and there 
he fulfils his vow, leaves his kavadi and his hair, and a 
small sum of money. Though the individuals about to 
be noticed were not Nayars, their cases illustrate very 
well the religious idea of the Nayar as expressed under 
certain circumstances. It was at Guruvayur (in Malabar) 
in November 1895. On a high raised platform under a 
peepul tree were a number of people under vows, bound 
for Palni. A boy of fourteen had suffered as a child from 
epilepsy, and seven years ago his father vowed on his 
behalf that, if he was cured, he would make his pilgrimage 
to Palni. He wore a string of beads round his neck, and 
a like string on his right arm. These were in some way 
connected with the vow. His head was bent, and he sat 
motionless under his kavadi, leaning on the bar, which, 
when he carried it, rested on his shoulder. He could not 
go to Palni until it was revealed to him in a dream when 
he was to start. He had waited for his dream seven years, 
subsisting on roots (yams, etc.), and milk — no rice. Now 
he had had the longed-for dream, and was about to start. 
Another pilgrim was a man wearing an oval band of silver 
over the lower portion of the forehead, almost covering 
his eyes ; his tongue protruding beyond the mouth, and 
kept in position by a silver skewer through it. The skewer 
was put in the day before, and was to be left in for forty 
days. He had been fasting for two years. He was much 


under the influence of the god, and whacking incessantly 
at a drum in delicious excitement. Several of the pilgrims 
had a handkerchief tied over the mouth, they being under 
a vow of silence. [At Kumbakonam in the Tanjore district, 
' there is a math in honour of a recently deceased saint 
named Paradesi, who attained wide fame in the district 
some years ago. He never spoke, and was welcomed and 
feasted everywhere, and was the subject of many vows. 
People used to promise to break cocoanuts in his presence, 
or clothe him with fine garments, if they obtained their 
desire, and such vows were believed to be very efficacious.' * 
At the Manjeshwar Temple in South Canara, there is a 
Darsana, (man who gets inspired) called the dumb Darsana, 
as he gives signs instead of speaking. Bishop Whitehead 
records t the case of a Brahman, who had taken a vow 
of silence for twenty-one years, because people make so 
much mischief by talking. He conversed by means of 
signs and writing in the dust]. One poor man wore the 
regular instrument of silence, the mouth - lock J — a wide 
silver band over the mouth, and a skewer piercing both 
cheeks. He sat patiently in a tent-like affair. People fed 
him with milk, etc. The use of the mouth-lock is common 
with the Nayars, when they assume the pilgrim's robes 
and set out for Palni. Pilgrims generally go in crowds 
under charge of a priestly guide, one who, having made 
a certain number of journeys to the shrine, wears a peculiar 
sash and other gear." ; 

In connection with kavadis, it may be noted that, at 
the time of the annual migration of the sacred herd of 
cattle belonging to the Kappiliyans (Canarese farmers 
in the Madura district) to the hills, the driver is said to 
carry a pot of fresh-drawn milk within a kavadi. On 
the day on which the return journey to the Kambam 

* "Gazetter of the Tanjore District," 1906, i. 219. 
t Madras Dioc. Mag., November, 1910, 

J See Fawcett, Note on the Mouth-lock Vow, Joum. Anthrop. Soe.y 
Bombay, i. 97-102. 


valley is commenced, the pot is opened, and the milk 
is said to be found in a hardened state. A slice thereof 
is cut off, and given to each person who accompanied 
the herd to the hills. It is believed that the milk 
would not remain in good condition, if the sacred herd 
had been in any way injuriously affected during its 
sojourn there. The usual vow performed at the shrine 
of Dandayudhapani or Subramanya near Settikulam in 
the Trichinopoly district is to carry milk, sugar, flour, 
etc., in a kavadi, and offer it to the god.* A case is 
recorded f from Ceylon, in which a man who was about 
to proceed with a kavadi to a shrine was held by several 
men, while a blow with the palm of the hand caught 
him in the middle of the back, to numb the pain created 
by the forcing of sharp iron hooks into the fleshy part 
of the back. 

Reference has been made (p. 137) to the offering of hair 
by devotees at the Palni shrine. When people are pre- 
vented from going to a temple at the proper time, hair 
is sometimes removed from their children's head, sealed up 
in a vessel, and put into the receptacle for offerings when 
the visit to the temple is paid. In cases of dangerous 
sickness, the hair is sometimes cut off, and offered to a 

"The sacrifice of locks," Mr A. Srinivasan writes, " is 
meant to propitiate deceased relations, and the deity which 
presides over life's little joys and sorrows. It is a similar 
intention that has dictated the ugly disfigurement of 
widows. We meet with the identical fact and purpose in 
the habit of Telugu Brahmans and non-Brahmans in 
general, sacrificing their whole locks of hair to the goddess 
Ganga of Prayaga, to the god Venkatesa of Tirupati, and 
other local gods. The Brahman ladies of the south have 

* "Gazetteer of the Trichinopoly District," 1907, i. 289. 
t Scottish Standard Bearer^ November 1907. 


more recently managed to please Ganga and other gods 
with just one or two locks of hair." 

Sometimes, in performance of a vow, Patnulkaran 
(Madura weaver) boys are taken to the shrine at Tirupati 
for the tonsure ceremony.* Married couples desirous of 
offspring make a vow that, if a child be granted to them, 
they will perform the ceremony of the first shaving of its 
head at the temple of the god who fulfils their desire, f 
It is said | that Alagarkovil in the Madura district is 
such a favourite place for carrying out the first shaving of 
the heads of children, that the right to the locks presented 
to the shrine is annually sold by auction. 

Writing in 1872, Mr Breeks remarked § that ''about 
Gotacamund, a few Todas have latterly begun to imitate 
the religious practices of their native neighbours, and my 
particular friend Kinniaven, after an absence of some days, 
returned with a shaven head from a visit to the temple of 
Siva at Nanjengudi " (in Mysore). 

A Toda who came to see me had his hair hanging 
down in long tails reaching below the shoulders. He 
had, he said, let it grow long because his wife, though 
married five years, had borne no child. A child had, 
however, recently been born, and he was going to 
sacrifice his locks as a thank-offering at the Nanjengod 
temple. By the Badagas of the Nilgiris, the fire-walking 
ceremony is celebrated to propitate the deity Jeddaya- 
swami, to whom vows are made. In token thereof, they 
grow one twist or plait of hair, which is finally cut off as 
an offering to Jeddayaswami. 

* The Patnulkarans claim to be Saurashtra Brahmans. 
t "Gazetteer of the Tanjore District," igo6, i. 71. 
X " Gazetteer of the Madura District," i. 86. 
§ " Primitive Tribes of the Nilagiris," 1873, ^7- 


By some Gavaras (a cultivating caste) of Vizagapatam, 
special reverence is paid to the deity Jagganathaswami of 
Orissa, whose shrine at Puri is visited by some, while others 
take vows in the name of the god. On the day of the 
car festival at Puri, local car festivals are held in Gavara 
villages, and women carry out the performance of their 
vows. A woman, for example, who is under a vow, in 
order that she may be cured of illness or bear children, 
takes a big pot of water, and, placing it on her head, 
dances frantically before the god, through whose influence 
the water which rises out of the pot falls back into it, 
instead of being spilt. The class of Vaishnavite mendi- 
cants called Dasari claims descent from a wealthy Sudra,* 
who, having no offspring, vowed that, if he was blessed 
with children, he would devote one to the service of the 
deity. He subsequently had many sons, one of whom he 
named Dasan, and placed entirely at the service of the 
god. Dasan forfeited all claim to his father's estate, and 
his descendants are therefore all beggars. f In a note on 
the Dasaris of Mysore, J it is stated that "they become 
Dasas or servants dedicated to the god at Tirupati by 
virtue of a peculiar vow, made either by themselves or 
their relatives at some moment of anxiety or danger, 
and live by begging in his name. Among certain castes 
{e.g.^ Banajiga, Tigala, and Vakkaliga), the custom of 
taking a vow to become a Dasari prevails. In fulfilment 
of that vow, the person becomes a Dasari, and his eldest 
son is bound to follow suit." 

It may be noted that, in the Canarese country, a 
custom obtains among the Bedars and some other castes, 
under which a family which has no male issue must dedicate 

* Sudra is the fourth traditional caste of Manu. 

t " Manual of the North Arcot District," 1895, i. 242. 

\ Mysore Census Report, 1901, part i. 519. 


one of its daughters as a Basavi.* The girl is taken to the 
temple, and married to the god, a tali (marriage badge) and 
toe-rings being put on her. Thenceforward she becomes 
a public woman, except that she should not consort with 
any one of lower caste than herself. It may be added that 
a Basavi usually lives faithfully with one man, and she 
works for her family as hard as any other woman. 

Married couples, to whom offspring is born after the 
performance of a vow, sometimes name it after the deity 
whose aid has been invoked, such as Srinivasa at 
Tirupati, Lakshminarasimha at Sholingur, or some other 
local god or goddess. At Negapatam, some Hindus make 
vows to the Miran (Muhammadan saint) of Nagur, and 
name their child after him. The name thus given is not, 
however, used in every-day life, but abandoned like the 
ceremonial name given prior to the Hindu upanayana 
ceremony. In the Telugu country, the poorer classes of 
Hindus sometimes promise that, if a son is born to them, 
they will call him after a Muhammadan Fakir, and, conse- 
quently, it is far from uncommon to find a Hindu named 
Fakirgadu or Fakirappa, with a Hindu termination to 
a Muhammadan commencement.f 

It has been noted (p. 138) that some pilgrims to the 
shrine at Palni have a skewer piercing both cheeks. It 
is recorded by Bishop Whitehead :j: that ''devotees go to 
the shrine of Durgamma at Bellary with silver pins about 
six inches long thrust through their cheeks, and with a 
lighted lamp in a brass dish on their head. On arriving 
before the shrine, they place the lamp on the ground, and 
the pin is removed, and offered to the goddess." 

* Basavi, see article " Deva-dasi " in my '* Castes and Tribes of 
Southern India," 1909, ii. 125-53. 

t "Manual of the Cuddapah District, 1875, 283. 
X Madras Museum Bull., 1907, v. No. 3, 149. 


The Bishop was told that the object of this ceremony 
is to enable the devotee to come to the shrine with a con- 
centrated mind. 

A common form of vow made to Mariamman at 
Pappakkalpatti in the Trichinopoly district is a promise to 
stick little iron skewers into the body. In performance of 
vows, the Sedans and Kaikolans (weaver castes) pierce 
some part of the body with a spear. The latter thrust a 
spear through the muscles of the abdomen in honour of 
their god Saha-nayanar at Ratnagiri. 

At the annual festival of the goddess Gangamma at 
Tirupati, a Kaikolan devotee dances before the goddess, 
and, when he is worked up to the proper pitch of frenzy, 
a metal wire is passed through the middle of his tongue. 
It is believed that the operation causes no pain or bleed- 
ing, and the only remedy adopted is the chewing of 
margosa {Melia Azadirachtd) leaves and some kunkumam 
(red powder) of the goddess. If, during a temple car 
procession, the car refuses to move, the Viramushtis 
(Lingayat mendicants), who are guardians of the idol, 
cut themselves with their swords until it is set in motion. 
There is a proverb that the Siva Brahman (temple priest) 
eats well, whereas the Viramushti hurts himself with the 
sword, and suffers much. The Viramushtis are said, in 
former days, to have performed a ceremony called 
pavadam. When an orthodox Lingayat was insulted, 
he would swallow his lingam, and lie flat on the ground 
in front of the house of the offender, who had to collect 
some Lingayats, and send for a Viramushti. He had 
to arrive accompanied by a pregnant Viramushti woman, 
priests of Draupadi, Pachaiamman, and Pothuraja temples, 
some individuals from the nearest Lingayat mutt, and 
others. Arrived at the house, the pregnant woman would 
sit down in front of the person lying on the ground. 


With his sword the Viramushti man then made cuts in 
his scalp and chest, and sprinkled the recumbent man 
with the blood. He would then rise, and the lingam 
would come out of his mouth. Mondi mendicants, when 
engaged in begging, cut the skin of the thighs with a 
knife, lie down and beat their chest with a stone, vomit, 
roll in the dust or mud, and throw ordure into the 
houses of those who will not contribute alms. It was 
noted, in a recent report of the Banganapalle State, that 
an inam (grant of rent-free land) was held on condition of 
the holder ** ripping open his stomach " at a certain festival. 
A vow performed in honour of the village goddess at 
Settikulam in the Trichinopoly district is for the votaries, 
male and female, to fling themselves on heaps of thorns 
before her. This vow is generally fulfilled by those 
cured of disease. It is called mullu padagalam, or bed 
of thorns.* At the annual fire -walking festival at 
Nuvagode in Ganjam, the officiating priest sits on a 
seat of sharp thorns. It is noticed f by the missionary 
Gloyer that, on special occasions, some Dombs in 
Vizagapatam fall into a frenzied state, in which they 
cut their flesh with sharp instruments, or pass long, 
thin iron bars through the tongue and cheeks, during 
which operation no blood must flow. For this purpose, 
the instruments are rubbed over with some blood-con- 
gealing material. They also affect sitting on a sacred 
swing, armed with long iron nails. Mr G. F. Paddison 
informs me that he once saw a villager in the Vizagapatam 
district sitting outside the house, while groans proceeded 
from within. He explained that he was ill, and his 
wife was swinging on nails with their points upwards, 
to cure him. 

* "Gazetteer of the Trichinopoly District," 1907, i. 289. 
t Jeypore, Breklum, 1901. 



In the Tanjore district, persons afflicted with disease 
promise that, if they are cured, they will brand their 
bodies, go round a temple a certain number of times 
by rolling over and over in the dust, and offer a pregnant 
goat by stabbing it through the womb. Sometimes vows 
of self- mortification are taken in anticipation of relief. 
Such are undertaking to go without salt in one's food, 
or to eat without using the hands, until a cure is 
effected.* At Palni in the Madura district, there is an 
annual feast at the Mariamman temple, at which people, 
in performance of a vow, carry in their bare hands 
earthen pots with a bright fire blazing inside them. 
They are said to escape burns by the favour of the 
goddess, but it is whispered that immunity is sometimes 
rendered doubly sure by putting sand or rice-husk at 
the bottom of the pot.f Some Dasaris (religious mendi- 
cants) go through a performance called Panda Servai, 
which consists in beating themselves with a flaming 
torch all over the body. I am informed by Mr Paddison 
that some Dombs are reputed to be able to pour blazing 
oil all over their bodies, without suffering any hurt ; 
and one man is said to have had a miraculous power 
of hardening his skin, so that any one could have a free 
shot at him without hurting him. In the Melur taluk 
of the Madura district, it is stated that women who are 
anxious for offspring vow that, if they attain their wish, 
they will go and have a cocoanut broken on their head 
by a priest at the temple of Sendurai.J At an annual 
festival in honour of the god Servarayan on the Shevaroy 
hills in the Salem district, those Malayalis who wish to 
take a vow to be faithful to their god have to receive 

* "Gazetteer of the Tanjore District," 1906, i. 72. 
t "Gazetteer of the Madura District," 1906, i. 86-7. 
X Ihid., 86. 


fifteen lashes on the bare back with a stout leather thong, 
administered by the chief priest. 

The annual festival at the temple of Karamadai in the 
Coimbatore district is visited by about forty or fifty 
thousand pilgrims, belonging for the most part to the 
lower classes. In case of sickness or other calamity, 
they take a vow to perform one of the following : — 

(i) To pour water at the feet of the idol inside the 
temple. Each devotee is provided with a goat-skin bag, 
or a new earthen pot. He goes to the tank, and, after 
bathing, fills the receptacle with water, carries it to the 
temple, and empties it before the idol. This is repeated 
a number of times according to the nature of the vow. 
If the vow is a life-long one, it has to be performed 
every year until death. 

(2) To give kavalam to Dasaris (religious mendicants). 
Kavalam consists of plantain fruits cut up into small 
slices, and mixed with sugar, jaggery (crude sugar), fried 
grain, or beaten rice. The Dasaris are attached to the 
temple, and wear short drawers, with strings of small 
brass bells tied to their wrists and ankles. They appear 
to be possessed, and move wildly about to the beating 
of drums. As they go about, the devotees put some of 
the kavalam into their mouths. The Dasaris eat a little, 
and spit out the remainder into the hands of the devotees, 
who eat it. This is believed to cure all disease, and to 
give children to those who partake of it. In addition to 
kavalam, some put betel leaves in the mouths of the 
Dasaris, who, after chewing them, spit them into the 
mouths of the devotees. At night the Dasaris carry 
torches made of rags, on which the devotees pour ghl 
(clarified butter). Some people say that, many years 
ago, barren women used to take a vow to visit the temple 
at the time of the festival, and, after offering kavalam, 


have sexual intercourse with the Dasaris. The temple 
authorities, however, profess ignorance of this practice. 

On the last day of the Gangajatra festival at Tirupati, 
a figure is made of clay and straw, and placed in the 
tope (grove), where crowds of all classes, including 
Paraiyans, present food to it. Buffaloes, goats, sheep, 
and fowls are sacrificed, and it is said that Brahmans, 
though they will not be present, send animals to be 
slaughtered. At the conclusion of the festivities, the 
image is burnt during the feast, which last over ten 
days, the lower orders of the people paint themselves, 
and indulge in much boisterous merriment. Those who 
have made a vow to Ganga fast for some days before the 
festival begins. They wear a structure made of bamboo 
in the form of a car, which is decorated with paper of 
different colours, and supported by iron nails pressed 
into the belly and back. They go about with this 
structure on their heads. Those who have been attacked 
by cholera, or other serious disease, make a vow to 
Ganga, and perform this ceremonial. 

A festival, which is attended by huge crowds of 
Hindus of all classes, takes place annually in the month 
of Audi (July-August) at the village of Periyapalayam, 
about sixteen miles from Madras, where the goddess 
Mariamma is worshipped under the name of Periyapala- 
yaththamman. According to the legend, as narrated by 
the Rev. A. C. Clayton,* 

"there was once a Rishi (sage), who lived on the banks 
of the Periyapalayam river with his wife Bavani. Every 
morning she used to bathe in the river, and bring back 
water for the use of the household. But she never took 
any vessel with her in which to bring the water home, 
for she was so chaste that she had acquired power to 

* Madras Museutn Bull., 1906, v., No. 2, 78-9. 


form a water-pot out of the dry river sand, and carry 
the water home in it. One day, while bathing, she saw 
the reflection of the face of the sky-god, Indra, in the 
water, and could not help admiring it. When she 
returned to the bank of the river, and tried to form her 
water-pot out of sand as usual, she could not do so, for 
her admiration of Indra had ruined her power, and she 
went home sadly to fetch a brass water-vessel. Her 
husband saw her carrying this to the river, and at once 
suspected her of unchastity, and, calling his son, ordered 
him to strike off her head with a sword. It was in vain 
that the son tried to avoid matricide. He had to obey, 
but he was so agitated by his feelings that, when at last 
he struck at his mother, he cut off not only her head, 
but that of a leather - dresser's wife who was standing 
near. The two bodies lay side by side. The rishi was 
so pleased with his son's obedience that he promised him 
any favour that he should ask, but he was very angry 
when the son at once begged that his mother might be 
restored to life. Being compelled to keep his word, he 
told the son that, if he put his mother's head on her 
trunk, she would again live. The son tried to do so, 
but in his haste took up the head of the leather-dresser's 
wife by mistake, and put it on Bavani's body. Leather- 
dressers are flesh-eaters, and so it comes about that, on 
days when her festival is celebrated, Bavani — now a 
goddess — longs for meat, and thousands of sheep, 
goats, and fowls, must be slain at her shrine. This 
legend bears marks of Brahmanic influence. Curiously 
enough, the priest of this Paraiya shrine is himself a 

The vows, which are performed at the festival at 
Periyapalayam, are as follows : — 

(i) Wearing a garment of margosa {Melia Azadirachta) 
leaves, or wearing an ordinary garment, and carrying 
a lighted lamp made of rice-flour on the head. 


(2) Carrying a pot decorated with flowers and margosa 
leaves round the temple. 

(3) Going round the temple, rolling on the ground. 

(4) Throwing a live fowl on to the top of the temple. 

(5) Throwing a cocoanut in front, prostrating on the 
ground in salutation, going forward several paces and 
again throwing the cocoanut, and repeating the pro- 
cedure till three circuits of the temple have been made. 

(6) Giving offerings to the idol Parasurama, cradle 
with baby made of clay or wood, etc., to bring offspring 
to the childless, success in a lawsuit or business trans- 
action, and other good luck. In addition, pongal (boiled 
rice) has to be offered, and by some a sheep or goat 
is sacrijficed. If a vow has been made on behalf of a 
sick cow, the animal is bathed in the river, clad in 
margosa leaves, and led round the temple. The leaf- 
wearing vow is resorted to by the large majority of the 
devotees, and performed by men, women and children. 
Those belonging to the more respectable classes go 
through it in the early morning, before the crowd has 
collected in its tens of thousands. The leafy garments 
are purchased from hawkers, who do a brisk trade in the 
sale thereof. The devotees have to pay a modest fee 
for admission to the temple precincts, and go round the 
shrine three or more times. Concerning the Periyapalayam 
festival, a recent writer observes that, "the distinctive 
feature is that the worshippers are clad in leaves. The 
devotees are bound to wear a garment made of fresh 
margosa twigs with their leaves. This garment is called 
vepansilai. It consists of a string three or four yards 
long, from which depend, at intervals of two to three 
inches apart, twigs measuring about two feet in length, 
and forming a fringe of foliage. This string being wound 
several times round the waist, the fringe of leaves forms 


a kilt or short petticoat. Men are content to wear the 
kilt, but women also wear round their neck a similar 
garment, which forms a short cloak reaching to the 
waist. To impress on devotees the imperative obligation 
imposed on them to wear the leaf garment in worshipping 
the goddess, it is said that a young married woman, being 
without children, made a vow to the goddess that, on 
obtaining a son, she would go on a pilgrimage to Periya- 
palayam, and worship her in accordance with the ancient 
rite. Her prayer having been answered, she gave birth 
to a son, and went to Periyapalayam to fulfil her vow. 
When, however, it was time to undress and put on the 
vepansilai, her modesty revolted. Unobserved by her 
party, she secretly tied a cloth round her waist before 
putting on the vepansilai. So attired, she went to the 
temple to worship. On seeing her coming, the goddess 
detected her deceit, and, waxing wroth, set the woman's 
dress all ablaze, and burnt her so severely that she died." 

It is noted by Bishop Whitehead * that it was formerly 
the custom for women to come to the shrine of Durgamma 
at Bellary clad in twigs of the margosa tree. But this is 
now only done by children, the grown-up women putting 
the margosa twigs over a cloth wrapped round the loins. 
At a festival of the village goddess at Kudligi in the Bellary 
district, the procession is said by Mr F. Fawcett to be 
headed by a Madiga (Telugu Pariah) naked save for a few 
margosa leaves. The wearing of these leaves on the occa- 
sion of festivals in honour of Mariamma is a very general 
custom throughout Southern India. Garments made of 
leaves are still worn by the females of some tribes on the west 
coast, e.g.^ the Thanda Pulayans, Vettuvans, and Koragas. 
Concerning the Koragas, Mr Walhouse writes f that they 

* Madras Musewn Bull., 1907, v., No. 3, 149. 
t "Ind. Ant," 1881, x. 364. 


''wear an apron of twigs and leaves over the buttocks. 
Once this was the only covering allowed them, and a mark 
of their deep degradation. But now, when no longer com- 
pulsory, and of no use, as it is worn over the clothes, the 
women still retain it, believing its disuse would be unlucky." 

'* Kuvvakkam in the South Arcot district is known for 
its festival to Aravan (more correctly Iravan) or Kuttandar, 
which is one of the most popular feasts with Sudras in the 
whole district. Aravan was the son of Arjuna, one of the 
five Pandava brothers. Local traditions says that, when 
the great war which is described in the Mahabharata 
was about to begin, the Kauravas, the opponents of the 
Pandavas, to bring them success, sacrificed a white 
elephant. The Pandavas were in despair of being able to 
find any such uncommon object with which to propitiate 
the gods, until Arjuna suggested that they should offer 
up his son Aravan. Aravan agreed to yield his life for 
the good of the cause, and, when eventually the Pandavas 
were victorious, he was deified for the self-abnegation 
which had thus brought his side success. Since he died in 
his youth, before he had been married, it is held to please 
him if men, even though grown up and already wedded, 
come now and offer to espouse him, and men who are 
afflicted with serious diseases take a vow to marry him at 
his annual festival in the hope of thereby being cured. 
The festival occurs in May, and for eighteen nights the 
Mahabharata is recited by a Palli (Tamil agriculturist),* 
large numbers of people, especially of that caste, assembling 
to hear it read. On the eighteenth night, a wooden image 
of Kuttandar is taken to a tope (grove) and seated there. 
This is the signal for the sacrifice of an enormous number 
of fowls. Every one who comes brings one or two, and 
the number killed runs literally into thousands. While 
this is going on, all the men who have taken vows to be 

* The Pallis claim to be descendants of the fire race (Agnikula) of 
the Kshatriyas, and that, as they and the Pandava brothers were born 
of fire, they are related. 


To face p. 152. 


married to the deity appear before his image dressed like 
women, make obeisance, offer to the priest (who is a Palli 
by caste) a few annas, and give into his hands the talis 
(marriage badge worn by women) which they have brought 
with them. These the priest, as representing the God, 
ties round their necks. The God is brought back to his 
shrine that night, and, when in front of the building, he is 
hidden by a cloth held before him. This symbolises the 
sacrifice of Aravan, and the men who have just been 
married to him set up loud lamentations at the death of 
their husband. Similar vows are taken and ceremonies 
performed, it is said, at the shrines of Kuttandar, two 
miles north - west of Porto Novo, and Adivarahanattum 
(five miles north-west of Chidambaram), and, in recent 
years, at Tiruvarkkulam (one mile east of the latter place) ; 
other cases probably occur." * 

I am informed by Mr R. F. Stoney that, in the Madura 
district, iron chains are hung on babul {Acacia arabicd) 
trees, and dedicated to the rustic deity Karuppan. At 
Melur Mr Stoney saw large masses of such chains, which 
are made by the village blacksmiths. They are very 
rough, and are furnished at one end with what is said to 
be a sickle, and also a spear-head. I gather further f 
that, in the Melur taluk, the shrine of Karuppan may 
usually be known by the hundreds of chains hung outside 
it, which have been presented to the god in performance of 
vows. The deity is said to be fond of bedecking himself 
with chains, and these offerings are usually suspended from 
a kind of horizontal bar made of two stone uprights support- 
ing a slab of stone placed horizontally upon the top of them. 
The god is also fond of presents of clubs and swords. 

"Sometimes," a recent writer states, '*a big chain 
hangs suspended from a tree, and the village panchayats 

* "Gazetteer of the South Arcot District,"' 1906, i. 375-6. 
t "Gazetteer of the Madura District," 1906, i. 85. 


(tribunals) are held in the Aiyanar (or Sangali Karuppan) 
temple. The accused is made to submit to an ordeal in 
proof of innocence. The ordeal consists in his swearing 
on the chain, which he is made to touch. He has such 
a dread of this procedure, that, as soon as he touches 
the chain, he comes out with the truth, failure to speak 
the truth being punished by some calamity, which he 
believes will overtake him within a week. These chains 
are also suspended to the trees near the temples of village 
goddesses, and used by village panchayats to swear the 
accused in any trial before them." 

It is narrated* by Moor that he ''passed a tree, on 
which were hanging several hundred bells. This was a 
superstitious sacrifice by the Bandjanahs,f who, passing 
this tree, are in the habit of hanging a bell or bells 
upon it, which they take from the necks of their sick 
cattle, expecting to leave behind them the complaint 
also. Our servants particularly cautioned us against 
touching these diabolical bells ; but, as a few were taken 
for our own cattle, several accidents that happened were 
imputed to the anger of the deity to whom these offer- 
ings were made, who, they say, inflicts the same disorder 
on the unhappy bullock who carries a bell from this 
tree as he relieved the donor from." 

At Diguvemetta in the Kurnool district, I came across 
a number of bells, both large and small, tied to the 
branches of a tamarind tree, beneath which were an 
image of the deity Malalamma, and a stone bull (Nandi). 
Suspended from a branch of the same tree was a thick 
rope, to which were attached heads, skulls, mandibles, 
thigh-bones, and feet of fowls, and the foot of a goat. 

* "Narrative of Little's Detachment," 1794, 212-3. 
t Lambadis or Brinjaris, who formerly acted as carriers of supplies 
and baggage in times of war in the Deccan. 


Mr Fawcett once saw, at a Savara village in Ganjam, 
a gaily ornamented hut near a burning-ground. Rude 
figures of birds and red rags were tied to five bamboos, 
which were sticking up in the air about eight feet above 
the hut, one at each corner, and one in the centre. A 
Savara said that he built the hut for his dead brother, 
and had buried the bones in it.* It is noted by the 
Rev. J. Cain f that, in some places, the Lambadis fasten 
rags torn from some old garment to a bush in honour 
of Kampalamma (kampa, a thicket). On the side of a 
road from Bastar are several large heaps of stones, which 
they have piled up in honour of the goddess Guttalamma. 
Every Lambadi who passes the heaps is bound to place 
one stone on the heap, and make a salaam to it. It is 
further recorded by Mr WalhouseJ that, when going 
from the Coimbatore plains to the Mysore frontier, he 
saw a thorn-bush rising out of a heap of stones piled 
round it, and bearing bits of rag tied to its branches by 
Lambadis. In the Telugu country, rags are offered to a 
god named Pathalayya (Mr Rags). On the trunk-roads 
in the Nellore district, rags may be seen hanging from 
the babul {Acacia arabica) trees. These are offerings made 
to Pathalayya by travellers, who tear off pieces of their 
clothing with a vague idea that the offering thereof will 
render their journey free from accidents, such as upsetting 
of their carts, or meeting with robbers. Outside the 
temple of the village goddess at Ojini in the Bellary 
district, Mr Fawcett tells us,§ "are hung numbers of 
miniature cradles and bangles presented by women who 
have borne children, or been cured of sickness through 

* Jotirn. Anthrop. Soc, Bombay, i. 253-4. 

t "Ind. Ant.," 1879, viii. 219. 

X Ibid., 1880, ix. 150. 

S Journ. Anthrop. Soc, Bombay, ii. 272. 


the intervention of the goddess. Miniature cows are 
presented by persons whose cows have been cured of 
sickness, and doll-like figures for children. One swami 
(god) there is, known by a tree hung with iron chains, 
hooks — anything iron ; another by rags, and so on. 
The ingenious dhobi (washerman), whose function is to 
provide torches on occasions, sometimes practises on the 
credulity of his countrymen by tying a few rags to a 
tree, which by and by is covered with rags, for the 
passers-by are not so stiff-necked as to ask for a sign 
other than a rag ; and under cover of the darkness, the 
dhobi makes his torch of the offerings." 

On the road to the temple at Tirumala (Upper 
Tirupati) in the North Arcot district, the goddess Gauthala 
Gangamma has her abode in a margosa or avaram {Cassia 
auriculatd) tree, surrounded by a white-ant hill. Passers- 
by tear off a piece of their clothing, and tie it to the 
branches, and place a small stone at the base of the ant- 
hill. Occasionally cooked rice is offered, fowls are 
sacrificed, and their heads and legs tied to the tree. In 
the Madura district, bits of rag are hung on the trees 
in which a deity named Sattan is believed to reside.* 
It is noted by Mr W. Francis t that, "in some places 
in the South Arcot district, for example, on the feeder 
road to the Olakkur station in Tindivanam taluk and 
near the eighth mile of the road from Kallakurchi to 
Vriddhachalam, are trees on which passers-by have hung 
bits of rag, until they are quite covered with them. 
The latter of the two cases had its origin only a few 
years back in the construction by some shepherd boys 
of a toy temple to Ganesa formed of a few stones under 
the tree, to draw attention to which they hung up a rag 

* " Gazetteer of the Madura District," 1906, i. 86. 

t "Gazetteer of the South Arcot District," 1906. i. 102. 


or two. The tree is now quite covered with bits of cloth, 
and beneath it is a large pile of stones, which have been 
added one by one by the superstitious passers-by." 

It is recorded by the Abbe Dubois* that ''at Palni, 
in Madura, there is a famous temple consecrated to the 
god Velayuda, whose devotees bring offerings of a peculiar 
kind, namely large sandals, beautifully ornamented, and 
similar in shape to those worn by the Hindus on their 
feet. The god is addicted to hunting, and these shoes 
are intended for his use when he traverses the jungles 
and deserts in pursuit of his favourite sport. Such 
shabby gifts, one might think, would go very little way 
towards filling the coffers of the priests of Velayuda. 
Nothing of the sort : Brahmins always know how to reap 
profit from anything. Accordingly the new sandals are 
rubbed on the ground and rolled a little in the dust, 
and are then exposed to the eyes of the pilgrims who 
visit the temple. It is clear enough that the sandals 
must have been worn on the divine feet of Velayuda ; 
and they become the property of whosoever pays the 
highest price for such holy relics." 

Mr Walhouse informs usf that the champak and other 
trees round the ancient shrine of the Trimurti at the foot 
of the Anaimalai mountains are thickly hung with sandals 
and shoes, many of huge size, evidently made for the 
purpose, and suspended by pilgrims as votive offerings. 
The god of the temple at Tirumala is said to appear 
annually to four persons in different directions, east, west, 
south and north, and informs them that he requires a 
shoe from each of them. They whitewash their houses, 
worship the god, and spread rice-flour thickly on the 

* " Hindu Manners, Customs, and Ceremonies " translation by H. K. 
Beauchamp, 1897, ii. 610. 

t "Ind. Ant.," 1880, ix. 152. 


floor of a room, which is locked for the night. Next 
morning the mark of a huge foot is found on the floor, 
and the shoe has to be made to fit this. When ready, 
it is taken in procession through the streets of the village, 
conveyed to Tirumala, and presented to the temple. 
Though the makers of the shoes have worked in ignorance 
of each others' work, the shoes brought from the north 
and south, and those from the east and west, are believed 
to match and make a pair. Though the worship of these 
shoes is chiefly meant for Paraiyans, who are prohibited 
from ascending the Tirupati hill, as a matter of fact all, 
without distinction of caste, worship them. The shoes 
are placed in front of the image of the god near the foot 
of the hill, and are said to gradually wear away by the 
end of the year. 

"At Belur in the Mysore Province," Mr Lewis Rice 
writes,* "the god of the temple is under the necessity of 
making an occasional trip to the Baba Budan hills to visit 
the goddess. On these occasions he is said to make 
use of a large pair of slippers kept for the purpose in 
the temple. When they are worn out, it devolves upon 
the chucklers (leather - workers) of Channagiri and 
Bisvapatna, to whom the fact is revealed in a dream, 
to provide new ones." 

In order to present the slippers, they are allowed to 
enter the courtyard of the temple. 

On the way leading up to the temple at Tirumala, 
small stones heaped up in the form of a hearth, and 
knots tied in the leaves of young date-palms may be seen. 
These are the work of virgins who accompany the parties 
of pilgrims. The knots are tied to ensure the tying of 
the marriage tali string on their necks, and the heaping 
up of the stones is done with a view to ensuring the 

* "Mysore," 1897, ii. 350. 


birth of children to them. If the girls revisit the hill 
after marriage and the birth of offspring, they untie the 
knot on a leaf, and disarrange one of the hearths. Men 
cause their name to be cut on rocks by the wayside, 
or on the stones with which the path leading to the 
temple is paved, in the belief that good luck will result 
if their name is trodden on by some pious man. 

At Tirupati, a number of Balijas are engaged in the 
red Sanders {Pterocarpus santalinus) wood-carving industry. 
Figures of deities, mythological figures, miniature temple 
cars, and domestic utensils, are among the articles turned 
out by them. Vessels made of red sanders wood carry 
no pollution, and can be used by women during the 
menstrual period, and taken back to the house without 
any purification ceremony. For the same reason, 
Sanyasis (ascetics) use such vessels for performing 
worship. The carved figures are sold to pilgrims and 
others who visit Tirupati, and are also taken for sale 
to Conjeeveram, Madura, and other places, at times when 
important temple festivals are celebrated. Carved wooden 
figurines, male and female, represented in a state of 
nudity, are also manufactured at Tirupati, and sold to 
Hindus. Those who are childless perform on them the 
ear-boring ceremony, in the belief that, as the result 
thereof, issue will be born to them. Or, if there are 
grown-up boys or girls in a family, who remain unmarried, 
the parents celebrate the marriage ceremony between a 
pair of figurines, in the hope that the marriage of their 
children will speedily follow. They dress up the dolls 
in clothes and jewelry, and go through the ceremonial 
of a real marriage. Some there are who have spent as 
much money on a doll's wedding as on a wedding in 
real life. 

The simplest form of offerings consists of fruits, such 


as plantains and cocoanuts. Without an offering of fruit 
no orthodox Hindu would think of entering a temple, or 
coming into the presence of a Native of position. The 
procession of servants and retainers, each bringing a 
gift of a lime fruit, on New Year's Day is familiar to 
Anglo-Indians. By the rules of Government, framed 
with a view to preventing bribery, the prohibition of the 
receipt of presents from Native Chiefs and others does not 
extend to the receipt of a few flowers or fruits, and articles 
of inappreciable value, although even such trifling presents 
should be discouraged. 

As a thanksgiving for recovery from illness, votive 
offerings frequently take the form of silver or gold repre- 
sentations of the part of the body affected, which are 
deposited in a vessel kept for the purpose at the temple. 
They are kept for sale in the vicinity of the temple, and 
must be offered by the person who has taken the vow, 
or on whose behalf it has been taken. When a person 
has been ill all over, a silver human figure, or a thin 
silver wire of the same length as himself, and represent- 
ing him, is sometimes offered. 

Of silver offerings from temples in the Tamil country, 
the Madras Museum possesses an extensive collection, 
in which are included the face, hands, feet, buttocks, 
tongue, larynx, navel, nose, ears, eyes, breasts, genitalia, 
etc. ; snakes offered to propitiate the anger of serpents, 
snakes coiled in coittt, sandals, flags, umbrellas, and 
cocoanuts strung on a pole. 

When litigation arises in Malabar in connection with 
the title to a house and compound (grounds) in which it 
stands, a vow is sometimes made to offer a silver model 
representing the property, if a favourable decree is obtained. 
Some time ago, a rich landlord offered at the temple a 
silver model representing the exact number of trees, house, 


well, etc., and costing several hundreds of rupees, when 
a suit was decided in his favour. 

In connection with the temple at Guruvayur in Malabar, 
Mr Fawcett writes as follows * : — 

" I visited the festival on one occasion, and purchase 
was made of a few offerings such as are made to the temple 
in satisfaction of vows — a very rude representation of an 
infant in silver, a hand, a leg, an ulcer, a pair of eyes, and, 
most curious of all, a silver string which represents a man, 
the giver. Goldsmiths working in silver and gold are to 
be seen just outside the gate of the temple, ready to provide 
at a moment's notice the object that any person intends to 
offer, in case he is not already in possession of his votive 

A Nayar examined by Mr Fawcett was wearing a silver 
ring as a vow, which was to be given up at the next 
festival at Kottiur in North Malabar. Another was wear- 
ing a silver bangle. He had a wound in his arm which 
was long in healing, so he made a vow to the god at 
Tirupati (Tirumala) that, if his arm was healed, he would 
give up the bangle at the temple. 

A few years ago, a shrine was erected at Cochin for 
a picture of the Virgin and Child, which attained to great 
celebrity for its power of working miracles. '' Many 
stories," Mr Fawcett writes,t "of the power of the 
picture are current. A fisherman, who had lost his nets, 
vowed to give a little net, if they were found. The 
votive offerings, which are sometimes of copper or brass, 
take strange forms. There are fishes, prawns, rice, cocoa- 
nut trees, cows, etc. A little silver model of a bridge 
was given by a contractor, who vowed, when he found 
his foundations were shaky, to give it if his work should 

* Madras Museum Bull., 190I) iii-> No. 3, 266. 
t The making of a shrine, Calcutta Review^ 1899, cviii. 173-5. 



pass muster. The power of the picture is such that the 
votaries are not confined to the Christian community. 
There are among them many Hindus and Mahomedans." 

In South Canara, silver rats and pigs are offered to 
protect the crops from destruction by these animals. 
Silver rice-grains are offered when children do not take 
their food properly, and silver sheaves of grain if the 
crop is abundant. At Pyka, brass or clay figures of the 
tiger, leopard, elephant, wild boar, and bandicoot rat, are 
presented at the shrine of a female bhutha* named 
Poomanikunhoomani, to protect the crops and cattle from 
the ravages of these animals. The figures must be solid, 
as the bhuthas would be very angry if they were hollow. 
A brass figure of Sarabha, a mythological eight-legged 
animal, which is supposed to be the vehicle of the god 
Virabhadra, is presented as an offering to some Siva 
temples in South Canara in cases where a person is 
attacked with a form of ulcer known as Siva's ulcer. 
Sometimes a silver lizard is offered at temples, to 
counteract the evils which would result from a lizard 
falling on some unlucky part of the body, such as the 
kudumi (hair knot) of a female. The lizard, associated 
with the name of Siva, is regarded as sacred. It is never 
intentionally killed, and, if accidentally hurt or killed, an 
image of it in gold or silver is presented by high caste 
Hindus to a Siva temple. f 

In Malabar, a Brahman magician transfers the spirits of 
those who have died an unnatural death to images made of 
gold, silver, or wood, which are placed in a temple or 
special building erected for them. It is said by Mr F. 
Fawcett, *'to be a sacred duty to a deceased Tiyan in 

* Bhutha, or demon worship, prevails in South Canara, where the 
villages have their bhutha sthanam or demon shrine. 
I "Cochin Census Report," 1901, part i. 25. 



Malabar, who was of importance, for example, the head of 
a family, to have a silver image of him made, and arrange 
for it being deposited in some temple, where it will receive 
its share of worship, and offerings of food and water. The 
temples at Tirunelli in Wynad and Tirunavayi, which are 
among the oldest in Malabar, were generally the resting- 
places of these images, but now some of the well-to-do 
deposit them much further afield, even at Benares and 
Ramesvaram. A silver image is presented to the local 
Siva temple, where, for a consideration, worship is done 
every new moon day. On each of these days, mantrams 
are supposed to be repeated a thousand times. When 
the image has been the object of these mantrams sixteen 
thousand times, it is supposed to have become eligible 
for final deposit at Tirunavayi or elsewhere." 

If a Muhammadan suffers from severe pain in the 
hand or foot, a vow is sometimes taken to the effect that 
a silver hand or foot will be taken to the grave of some 
saint, and put into the treasury which is kept there to 
meet the expenses of the annual ceremonies of the saint. 
At Vizagapatam * there is a celebrated Muhammadan 
saint, who lies buried by the Durga on the top of the 
hill overlooking the harbour. He is considered to be 
all potent over the elements of the Bay of Bengal, and 
many a silver dhoni (native boat) is presented at his 
shrine by Hindu ship-owners after a successful voyage. 
A suit once arose between a Komati boat-owner and his 
Muhammadan captain during settlement of the accounts. 
The captain stated that, during a storm off the coast of 
Arakan, he had vowed a purse of rupees to the saint, and 
had duly presented it on his return. This sum he charged 
to the owner of the vessel, whose sole contention was 
that the vow had never been discharged ; the propriety 
* " Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam District," 1907, i. 329. 


of conciliating the saint in a hurricane he allowed. At 
Timmancherla in the Anantapur district there is a tomb 
of a holy Muhammadan named Masthan Ali, in whose 
honour a religious ceremony is held annually in April, 
which is attended by both Muhammadans and Hindus. 
The latter make vows at the tomb, which has a special 
reputation for granting offspring to the childless. The 
headman of the village, who is a Hindu, brings the first 
offerings in procession with much ceremony.* 

At the annual festival at the temple at Nedamangad in 
Travancore, which is attended by large numbers of the 
lower classes, the worshippers are said by the Rev. S. 
Mateerf to "bring with them wooden models of cows 
covered, in imitation of shaggy hair, with ears of rice. 
Many of these images are brought, each in a separate 
procession from its own place. The headmen are finely 
dressed with cloths stained purple at the edge. The image 
is borne on a bamboo frame, accompanied by a drum," 
and carried round the temple. The Gudigars (wood- 
carvers) at Udipi in South Canara make life-size wooden 
buffaloes and large human figures as votive offerings for 
the Iswara Temple at Hiriadkap, where they are set up in 
a row. By the Savaras of Vizagapatam, rudely carved and 
grotesque wooden representations of human beings, 
monkeys, lizards, parrots, peacocks, guns, pickaxes, 
daggers, etc., are dedicated to the tribal deity. They 
would not sell them to the district officer who acquired 
them on my behalf, but parted with them on the under- 
standing that they would be worshipped by the Sirkar 
(Government). In like manner, the fishermen of the 
Ganjam coast objected to specimens of the gods which 
are placed in little shrines on the sea-shore being sent 

* "Gazetteer of the Anantapur District,'" 1905, i. 164. 
t " Native Life in Travancore," 1883. ' 


to me, till they were told that it was because the 
Government had heard of their devotion to their gods 
that they wanted to have some of them in Madras. The 
gods, which are made in clay and wood, include Bengali 
Babu riding on a black horse, who is believed to bless 
the fishermen, secure large hauls of fish for them, and 
protect them against danger when out fishing. It has 
been observed that this affinity between the Ganjam fisher- 
men and the Bengali Babu, resulting in the apotheosis of 
the latter, is certainly a striking example of the catholicity 
of hero-worship, and it would be interesting to know how 
long, and for what reasons the conception of protection 
has appealed to the followers of the piscatory industry. 
It was Sir George Campbell, the Lieutenant-Governor of 
Bengal, who compelled his Bengali officials, much against 
their inclination, to cultivate the art of equitation. 

I am informed by Mr G. V. Ramamurthi Pantulu that 
the Savaras attend the markets or fairs held in the plains, 
or at the foot of the ghats, to purchase salt and other 
articles. If a Savara is taken ill at the market or on his 
return thence, he attributes the illness to a spirit of the 
market called Biradi Sonum. The bulls which carry the 
goods of the Hindu merchants to the market are supposed 
to convey the spirit. In propitiating it, the Savara makes 
an image of a bull in straw, and, taking it out of his 
village, leaves it on the footpath, after a pig has been 
sacrificed. Owners of cattle take the animals when sick 
round the sacred hill at Tirukazhukunram in performance 
of a vow, in the belief that their health will be thus 

"A Brahmini bull," Mr A. Srinivasan writes, **is 
dedicated to the god Venkateswara of Tirupati, for the 
benefit of the living in fulfilment of vows. The act of 
dedication and release is preceded by elaborate rituals 


of marriage, as among men and women. The bride, 
which should be a heifer that has not calved, is furnished 
by the father-in-law of the donor. The heifer is united 
in holy wedlock to the bullock, after formal chanting 
of mantrams, by the tying of the tali and toe-rings 
to the neck. In this sham marriage, the profuse orna- 
mentation of the couple with saffron (turmeric) and red 
powder, the pouring of rice on their heads, and a pro- 
cession through the streets with music, are conspicuous 

I am told that, if the devotee cannot afford a live 
animal, a mimic representative is made in rice. 

Painted hollow images are made by special families 
of Kusavans (potters) known as pujari (priest), who, 
for the privilege of making them, have to pay an annual 
fee to the headman, who spends it on a festival at the 
caste temple. When a married couple are anxious to 
have female offspring, they take a vow to offer figures 
of the seven virgins (Saptha Kannimar), who are repre- 
sented all seated in a row. If a male or female recovers 
from cholera, smallpox, or other severe illness, a figure 
of the corresponding sex is offered. A childless woman 
makes a vow to offer up the figure of a baby, if she 
brings forth offspring. Figures of animals — cattle, horses, 
sheep, etc. — are offered at the temple when they recover 
from sickness, or are recovered after they have been 
stolen. Horses made of clay, painted red and other 
colours, are set up in the fields to drive away demons, 
or as a thank-offering for recovery from sickness, or any 
piece of good luck. The villagers erect these horses in 
honour of the popular deity Ayanar, the guardian deity of 
the fields, who is a renowned huntsman, and is believed, 
when, with his wives Purna and Pushkala, he visits the 
village at night, to mount the horses, and ride down 


the demons. Ayanar is said * to be the special deity of 
the Kusavan caste. Kusavans are generally the pujaris 
at his temples, and they make the earthenware, and 
brick and mortar horses and images, which are placed 
before these buildings. The pupils of the eyes of the 
various images are not painted in till they are taken to 
the temple, where offerings of fruit, etc., are first made. 
Even the pupils of a series of images which were specially 
made for me were not painted at the potter's house, 
but in the verandah of the traveller's bungalow where 
I was staying. A very interesting account of the netra 
mangalya, or ceremony of painting the eyes of images, 
as performed by craftsmen in Ceylon, has been published 
by Mr A. K. Coomaraswamy.f Therein he writes that 
**by far the most important ceremony connected with the 
building and decoration of a vihara (temple), or with its 
renovation, was the actual netra mangalya or eye ceremonial. 
The ceremony had to be performed in the case of any 
image, whether set up in a vihara or not. Even in the 
case of flat paintings it was necessary. D. S. Muhandiram, 
when making for me a book of drawings of gods accord- 
ing to the Rupavaliya, left the eyes to be subsequently 
inserted on an auspicious occasion, with some simpler 
form of the ceremony described." 

On this subject, Knox writes as follows % : — 

" Some, being devoutly disposed, will make the image 
of this god (Buddha) at their own charge. For the making 
whereof they must bountifully reward the Founder. Before 
the eyes are made, it is not accounted a god, but a lump 
of ordinary metal, and thrown about the shop with no 
more regard than anything else. But, when the eyes are 
to be made, the artificer is to have a good gratification, 

* " Gazetteer of the Madura District," 1906, i. 102. 
t " Mediaeval Sinhalese Art," 1908, 70-75. 
X Philalethes, " History of Ceylon," 1817, 163. 


besides the first agreed upon reward. The eyes being 
formed, it is thenceforward a god. And then, being 
brought with honour from the workman's shop, it is 
dedicated by solemnities and sacrifices, and carried with 
great state into the shrine or little house, which is before 
built and prepared for it." 

Putting money into a receptacle (undi) as an offering 
to a particular deity is a very common custom. In the 
case of a popular god, such as the one at Tirumala, an 
earthen pot is sometimes replaced by a copper money-box 
or iron safe. In South Canara there was a well-to-do 
family, the members of which kept on depositing coins 
in the family undi, which were set apart for the Tirumala 
god during a number of generations. Not only in cases 
of sickness, but even when a member of the family went 
to a neighbouring village, and returned safely, a few coins 
were put into the undi. For some reason, the opening 
of the undi, and offering of its contents at Tirumala, was 
postponed, and, when it was finally opened, it was found 
to contain a miscellaneous collection of coins, current 
and uncurrent. When a temple is far away, and those 
who wish to make offerings thereat cannot, owing to 
the expense of the journey or other reason, go there 
themselves, the offerings are taken by a substitute. If 
the god to whom the offering is made is Srinivasa of 
Tirumala, a small sum of money must be offered as 
compensation for not taking it in person. The god is 
sometimes called Vaddi Kasulu Varu, in allusion to the 
money (kasu) or interest. In some large towns, in the 
months of July and August, parties of devotees may be 
seen wandering about the streets, and collecting offerings 
to the god, which will be presented to him in due course. 
If a Kelasi (barber) in South Canara is seriously ill, he 
sometimes undertakes a vow to beg from door to door. 


and convey the money thus collected to Tirumala. In his 
house he keeps a small closed box with a slit in the lid, 
through which he drops a coin at every stroke of mis- 
fortune, and the contents are eventually sent to the holy 
shrine.* A few years ago, a Native complained to the 
police that about seven hundred rupees had been stolen 
from some brass pots, which he kept in a separate room 
of his house. The money, he stated, was dedicated to 
the Tirumula temple, and was kept in the pots buried in 
paddy (unhusked rice). He himself had put in about 
fifty rupees during the time that the pots had been in 
his charge, either as an annual contribution, or on occa- 
sions of sickness. His mother stated that it had been 
a custom in the family to put money into the vessel for 
several generations, and she had never seen the pots 

It is whispered that Kalian dacoits invoke the aid 
of their deity Alagarswami, when they are setting out 
on marauding expeditions, and, if they are successful 
therein, put part of their ill - gotten gains into the 
offertory box, which is kept at his shrine.f In this 
connection, the Rev. J. Sharrock states that ''there is 
an understanding that, if their own village gods help 
them in their thefts, they are to have a fair share of the 
spoil, and, on the principle of honour among thieves, the 
bargain is always kept. When strange deities are met 
with on their thieving expeditions, it is usual to make 
a vow that, if the adventure turns out well, part of the 
spoil shall next day be left at the shrine of the god, or 
be handed over to the pujari of that particular deity. They 
are afraid that, if this precaution be not taken, the god 
may make them blind, or cause them to be discovered, or 

* M. Bapu Rao, Madras Christian Coll. Mag., April 1894, xi. 
t " Gazetteer of the Madura District," 1906, i. 286. 


may go so far as to knock them down, and leave them to 
bleed to death." 

The most popular of the Muhammadan saints who are 
buried at Porto Novo, where a considerable number of 
Marakkayars (Muhammadans) are engaged as sailors, 

'*is one Malumiyar, who was apparently in his lifetime 
a notable sea-captain. His fame as a sailor has been 
magnified into the miraculous, and it is declared that he 
owned ten or a dozen ships, and used to appear in 
command of all of them simultaneously. He has now 
the reputation of being able to deliver from danger those 
who go down to the sea in ships, and sailors setting out 
on a voyage, or returning from one in safety, usually put 
an offering in the little box kept at his darga, and these 
sums are expended in keeping that building lighted and 
whitewashed. Another curious darga in the town is that 
of Araikasu Nachiyar, or the one pie lady. Offerings to 
her must on no account be worth more than one pie 
(tI^¥ of a rupee) ; tributes in excess of that value are of no 
effect. If sugar for so small an amount cannot be pro- 
cured, the devotee spends the money on chunam (lime) 
for her tomb, and this is consequently covered with a 
superabundance of whitewash. Stories are told of the 
way in which the valuable offerings of rich men have 
altogether failed to obtain her favour, and have had to 
be replaced by others of the regulation diminutive 
dimensions." * 

The chief god of the Dombs of Vizagapatam is said f 
to be represented by a pie piece placed in or over a new 
earthen pot smeared with rice and turmeric powder. It is 
said X that Muhammadans, belonging to the lower classes, 
consult panchangam Brahmans about the chances of 
success in their enterprises. Some of these Brahmans 

* " Gazetteer of the South Arcot District," 1906, i. 278. 
t F. Fawcett, Man, 1901, i., No. 29, p. 37. 
I "Madras Census Report," 1901, part i. 134. 


send half the fee so obtained to the Muhammadan mosque 
at Nagur near Negapatam, and will even offer sugar and 
flowers at that shrine, though they endeavour to excuse 
the act by saying that the saint was originally a 

1 once saw a Muhammadan at Tumkur in Mysore, 
whither he had journeyed from Hyderabad, who had a 
rupee tied round his arm in token of a vow that, if he 
returned safe from plague and other ills to his own 
country, he would give money in charity. When a 
Muhammadan falls ill, a rupee and a quarter is sometimes 
done up in a red cloth, and tied round the arm, to be 
given to the poor on recovery. Members of the poorer 
classes tie an anna and a quarter in like manner, after 
performing a fateha ceremony. Should the sickness of a 
Hindu be attributed to a god or goddess, a vow is made, 
in token whereof a copper or silver coin is wrapped up in 
a piece of cloth dipped in turmeric paste, and kept in the 
house, or tied to the neck or arm of the sick person. A 
cock may be waved round the head of the patient, and 
afterwards reared in the house, to be eventually offered up 
at the shrine of the deity. A Bedar, whom I saw at 
Hospet in the Bellary district, had a quarter anna rolled 
up in cotton cloth, which he wore on the upper arm in 
performance of a vow. 

In an account of the cock festival at Cranganore in 
Malabar, whereat vast numbers of cocks are sacrificed, 
Mr Gopal Panikkar records* that, "when a man is 
taken ill of any infectious disease, his relations generally 
pray to the goddess (at Cranganore) for his recovery, 
solemnly covenanting to perform what goes by the name 
of a thulabharam (or thulupurushadanam) f ceremony. 

* " Malabar and its Folk," Madras, 2nd ed., 133. 
t Thula (scales), purusha (rnan), danam (gift). 


This consists in placing the patient in one of the scale- 
pans of a huge balance, and weighing him against 
gold, or, more generally, pepper (and sometimes other 
substances), deposited in the other scale - pan. Then 
this weight of the substance is offered to the goddess. 
This has to be performed right in front of the goddess 
in the temple yard." 

At Mulki in South Canara there is a temple of Venkates- 
wara, which is maintained by Konkani Brahmans. A 
Konkani Brahman, who is attached to the temple, becomes 
inspired almost daily between lo and ii a.m., immediately 
after worship, and people consult him. Some time ago, 
a rich merchant from Gujarat consulted the inspired man 
as to what steps should be taken to enable his wife to be 
safely delivered. He was told to take a vow that he 
would present to the god of the temple, silver, sugar- 
candy, and date fruits, equal in weight to that of his wife, 
This he did, and his wife was delivered of a male child. 
The cost of the ceremonial is said to have been five 
thousand rupees. In the thulabharam ceremony as per- 
formed by the Maharajas of Travancore,* they are weighed 
against gold coins, called thulabhara kasu, specially 
struck for the occasion, which are divided among the 
priests who performed the ceremony, and Brahmans. 

The following quaint custom, which is observed at the 
village of Pullambadi in the Trichinopoly district, is 
described by Bishop Whitehead. | 

"The g-oddess Kulanthal Amman has established for 
herself a useful reputation as a settler of debts. When a 
creditor cannot recover a debt, he writes down his claim 
on a scroll of palm - leaves, and offers the goddess a 

* See Shungoony Menon, " History of Travancore," 1878^ 58-72. 
\ Madras Diocesan Record^ October, 1905. 


part of the debt, if it is paid. The palmyra scroll is 
hung up on an iron spear in the compound of the temple 
before the shrine. If the claim is just, and the debtor 
does not pay, it is believed that he will be afflicted with 
sickness and bad dreams. In his dreams he will be told 
to pay the debt at once, if he wishes to be freed from 
his misfortunes. If, however, the debtor disputes the 
claim, he draws up a counter -statement, and hangs it 
on the same spear. Then the deity decides which claim 
is true, and afflicts with sickness and bad dreams the 
man whose claim is false. When a claim is acknowledged, 
the debtor brings the money, and gives it to the pujari, 
who places it before the image of Kulanthal Amman, 
and sends word to the creditor. The whole amount is 
then handed over to the creditor, who pays the sum 
vowed to the goddess into the temple coffers in April 
or May. So great is the reputation of the goddess, that 
Hindus come from about ten miles round to seek her 
aid in recovering their debts. The goddess may some- 
times make mistakes, but, at any rate, it is cheaper than 
an appeal to an ordinary court of law, and probably 
almost as effective as a means of securing justice. In 
former times, no written statements were presented ; 
people simply came and represented their claims by 
word of mouth to the deity, promising to give her a 
share. The custom of presenting written claims sprang 
up about thirty years ago, doubtless through the influence 
of the Civil Courts. Apparently more debts have been 
collected since this was done, and more money has been 
gathered into the treasury." 

It is noted by the Rev. A. Margoschis* that ''the 
Hindus observe a special day at the commencement 
of the palmyra season (in Tinnevelly), when the jaggery 
season begins. Bishop Caldwell adopted the custom, 
and a solemn service in church was held, when one set 
♦ "Christianity and Caste," 1893. 


of all the implements used in the occupation of palmyra- 
climbing was brought to the church, and presented at 
the altar. Only the day was changed from that observed 
by the Hindus. The perils of the palmyra-climber are 
great, and there are many fatal accidents by falling from 
trees forty to sixty feet high, so that a religious service 
of the kind was particularly acceptable and peculiarly 
appropriate to our people." 

The story is told by Bishop Caldwell of a Shanar 
(toddy-drawer) who was sitting upon a leaf-stalk at the 
top of a palmyra palm in a high wind, when the stalk 
gave way, and he came down to the ground safely and 
quietly sitting on the leaf, which served the purpose of 
a natural parachute. 

The festival of Ayudha Puja (worship of tools or 
implements) is observed by all Hindu castes during the 
last three days of the Dasara or Navarathri in the month 
of Purattasi (September - October). It is a universal 
holiday for all Hindu workmen. Even the Brahman 
takes part in this puja. His tools, however, being books, 
it is called Saraswati puja, or worship to the goddess 
or god of learning, who is either Saraswati or Hayagriva. 
Reading books and repetition of Vedas must be done, 
and, for the purpose of worship, all the books in a 
house are piled up in a heap. Non-Brahmans clean the 
various implements used by them in their daily work, 
and worship them. The Kammalans (artisans) clean 
their hammers, pincers, anvil, blowpipe, etc. ; the Chettis 
(merchants) clean their scales and weights, and the box 
into which they put their money. The racket-marker at 
the Madras Club decorates the entrance to the scoring- 
box in which his rackets are kept, with a festoon of 
mango leaves. The weaving and agricultural classes 
will be seen to be busy with their looms and agricultural 


implements. Fishermen pile up their nets for worship. 
Even the bandywala (cart-driver) paints red and white 
stripes on the wheels and axles. I have myself been 
profusely garlanded when present as a guest at the 
elaborate tool-worshipping ceremony at the Madras School 
of Arts, where puja was done to a bust of the late Bishop 
Gell set up on an improvised altar, with a cast of Saraswati 
above, and various members of the Hindu Pantheon 

At the festival held by the Koyis of the Godavari 
district in propitiation of a goddess called Pida, very 
frequently offerings promised long before are sacrificed, 
and eaten by the pujari. It is not at all uncommon for 
a Koyi to promise to offer a seven-horned male {i.e. a 
cock) as a bribe to be let alone, a two-horned male {i.e. 
a goat) being set apart by more wealthy or more fervent 
suppliants.* When smallpox or other epidemic disease 
breaks out in a Gadaba village in Vizagapatam, a little 
go-cart on wheels is constructed. In this a clay image, or 
anything else holy, is placed, and it is taken to a distant 
spot, and left there. It is also the custom, when cholera 
or smallpox is epidemic in the same district, to make a 
little car, "on which are placed a grain of saffron-stained f 
rice for every soul in the village, and numerous offerings 
such as little swings, pots, knives, ploughs, and the like, 
and the blood of certain sacrificial victims, and this is 
then dragged with due ceremony to the boundary of 
the village. By this means the malignant essence of the 
deity who brings smallpox or cholera is transferred across 
the boundary. The neighbouring villagers naturally 
hasten to move the car on with similar ceremony, and 

* Rev. J. Cain, Madras Christiati Coll. Mag.., 1887-8, v. 358. 
t In Southern India, turmeric {Curcuma) is commonly called saffron 


it is thus dragged through a whole series of villages, 
and eventually left by the roadside in some lonely 

Marching on one occasion, towards Hampi in the 
Bellary district, where an outbreak of cholera had recently 
occurred, I came across two wooden gods on wheels by 
the roadside, to whom had been offered baskets of fruit, 
vegetables, earthen pots, bead necklets, and bangles, 
which were piled up in front of them. It is recorded f 
by Bishop Whitehead that, when an epidemic breaks 
out in a certain village in the Telugu country, 

**the headman of the village gets a new earthenware pot, 
besmears it with turmeric and kunkuma (red powder), 
and puts inside it some clay bracelets, necklaces, and 
earrings, three pieces of charcoal, three pieces of turmeric, 
three pieces of incense, a piece of dried cocoanut, a 
woman's cloth, and two annas worth of coppers — a 
strange collection of miscellaneous charms and offerings. 
The pot is then hung up on a tree near the image of 
the village deity, as a pledge that, if the epidemic dis- 
appears, the people will celebrate a festival." 

It is further recorded % by Bishop Whitehead that, 
during the festival of Mariamma at Kannanur in the 
Trichinopoly district, " many people who have made 
vows bring sheep, goats, fowls, pigeons, parrots, cows, 
and calves, to the temple, and leave them in the com- 
pound alive. At the end of the festival, these animals 
are all sold to a contractor. Two years ago, they fetched 
Rs. 400 — a good haul for the temple." 

Between the Madras museum and the Government 

* "Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam District," 1907, i. 75. 
t Madras Museum Bull., 1907, v., No. 3, 134. 
+ /did., 171. 


maternity hospital, a small municipal boundary stone 
has been set up by the side of the road. To this stone 
supernatural powers are attributed, and it is alleged that 
in a banyan tree in a private garden close by a Muni 
lives, who presides over the welfare of the patients in 
the hospital, and must be propitiated if the pregnant 
woman is to get over her confinement without complica- 
tions. Women vow that they will, if all goes well, give 
a cocoanut, betel, or flowers when they leave. Dis- 
charged patients can be seen daily, going to the stone 
and making offerings. On the day of their discharge, 
their friends bring camphor and other articles, and the 
whole family goes to the stone, where the camphor is 
burnt, a cocoanut broken, and perhaps some turmeric or 
flowers placed on it. The new-born child is placed on 
the bare ground in front of the stone, and the mother, 
kneeling down, bows before it. The foreheads of both 
mother and child are marked with the soots from the 
burning camphor. If her friends do not bring the 
requisite articles, the woman goes home, and returns 
with them to do puja to the stone, or it is celebrated at 
a temple or her house. The offerings are removed by 
those who present them, or by passers-by on the road. 

The Kudubi cutch (catechu) makers of South Canara, 
before the commencement of operations, select an Areca 
Catechu tree, and place a sword, an axe, and a cocoanut 
on the ground near it. They prostrate themselves before 
the tree, with hands uplifted, burn incense, and break 
cocoanuts. The success of the operations is believed to 
depend on the good-will of a deity named Siddedevaru. 
Before they commence work, the Kudubis make a vow 
that, if they are successful, they will offer a fowl. 

'*A palmyra tree in the jungle near Ramnad with 
seven distinct trunks, each bearing a goodly head of 



fan-shaped leaves is," General Burton writes,* ''attributed 
to the action of a deity, and stones smeared with oil and 
vermilion, broken cocoanuts, and fowl's feathers lying 
about, testify that puja and sacrifice were performed here." 

On the Rangasvami peak on the Nilgiris are two 
rude walled enclosures sacred to the god Ranga and 
his consort, within which are deposited various offerings, 
chiefly iron lamps and the notched sticks used as weighing- 
machines. The hereditary priest is an Irula Oungle 
tribesman), t Certain caves are regarded by the Muduvars 
of the Travancore hills as shrines, wherein spear-heads, 
tridents, and copper coins are placed, partly to mark 
them as holy places, and partly as offerings to bring 
good luck. 

Prehistoric stone cells, found in the bed of a river, 
are believed to be the thunderbolts of Vishnu, and are 
stacked as offerings by the Malaialis of the Shevaroy 
hills in their shrines dedicated to Vigneswara the elephant 
god, who averts evil, or in little niches cut in rocks. 

Of a remarkable form of demon worship in Tinnevelly, 
Bishop Caldwell wrote that J "an European was till 
recently worshipped as a demon. From the rude verses 
which were sung in connection with his worship, it 
would appear that he was an English officer, who was 
mortally wounded at the taking of the Travancore lines 
in 1809, and was buried about twenty-five miles from 
the scene of the battle in a sandy waste, where, a few 
years ago, his worship was established by the Shanans 
of the neighbourhood. His worship consisted in the 
offering to his manes of spirituous liquors and cheroots." 

A similar form of worship, or propitiation of demons, 

* "An Indian Olio/' 79-80. 

t " Gazetteer of the Nilgiris," 1908, i. 340. 

J "The Tinnevelly Shanars," 1849. 


is recorded* by Bishop Whitehead from Malabar. He 
was told that "the spirits of the old Portuguese soldiers 
and traders are still propitiated on the coast with offerings 
of toddy and cheroots. The spirits are called Kappiri 
(probably Kaffirs or foreigners). This superstition is 
dying out, but is said to be common among the fisher- 
men of the French settlement of Mai (Mahe)." 

On one occasion, a man who had been presented with 
two annas as the fee for lending his body to me for 
measurement, offered it, with flowers and a cocoanut, 
at the shrine of the village goddess, and dedicated to 
her another coin of his own as a peace-offering, and to 
get rid of the pollution caused by my money. 
* Madras Dioc. Mag,^ March, 1903. 



Mantrams, or consecrated formulae, are supposed to be 
very powerful, and by their aid even gods can be brought 
under control. They are, inter alia, believed to be 
efficacious in curing disease, in protecting children against 
devils, and women against miscarriage, in promoting 
development of the breasts, in bringing offspring to 
barren women, in warding off misfortune consequent on 
marriage with a girl who has an unlucky mark, in 
keeping wild pigs from the fields, and warding off cattle 
disease. For the last purpose, the magical formula is 
carved on a stone pillar, which is set up in the village. 
They are divided into four classes, viz., mantrasara, or 
the real essence of magic ; yantrasara, or the science of 
cabalistic figures ; prayogasara, or the method of using 
these for the attainment of any object ; tantrasara, or 
the science of symbolical acts with or without words. 

Mantrasara includes all mantrams, with their efficacy 
for good and evil, and the methods of learning and reciting 
them with the aid of a guru (spiritual preceptor). They 
are said to be effective only when the individual who 
resorts to them is pure in mind and body. This can 
be attained by the recitation of ajapagayithri (216,000 
inhalations and exhalations in twenty-four hours). These 
have to be divided among the deities Ganesa, Brahma, 
Vishnu, Rudra, Jivathma, Paramathma, and the guru, 



in the proportion of 600, 6000, 6000, 6000, 1000, 1000, 
1000. A man can only become learned in mantrams 
(mantravadi) by the regular performance of the recognised 
ceremonial, by proper recital of the mantrams, by burning 
the sacred fire, and by taking food. A Lambadi has been 
seen repeating mantrams over his patients, and touching 
their heads at the same time with a book, which was a 
small edition of the Telugu translation of St John's 
gospel. Neither the physician nor the patient could 
read, and had no idea of the contents of the book.* It 
is noted by the Abbe Dubois, f that one of the principal 
reasons why so little confidence is placed in European 
doctors by Hindus is that, when administering their 
remedies, they recite neither mantrams nor prayers. 

Yantrasara includes all cabalistic figures, the method 
of drawing and using them, and the objects to be attained 
by them. They are usually drawn on thin plates of gold, 
silver, copper, or lead. The efficacy of the figures, when 
drawn on gold, will, it is said, last for a century, while 
those drawn on the less precious metals will only be 
effective for six months or a year. Leaden plates are 
used when the yantrams are to be buried underground. 
The figures should possess the symbols of life, the eyes, 
tongue, eight cardinal points of the compass, and the 
five elements. 

Prayogasara includes attraction or summoning by 
enchantment, driving out evil spirits, stupefaction, tempt- 
ing or bringing a deity or evil spirits under control, and 
enticement for love, destruction, and the separation of 

The following are examples of cases in which a 

* Rev. J. Cain, " Ind. Ant.," 1879, viii. 219. 

t " Hindu Manners, Customs, and Ceremonies,' translation by H. 
K. Beauchamp, 1897, i. 143. 


European, who, having been trained by a guru, was 
well versed in the theory and practice of native magic, 
was called in to administer to Natives, who were under 
the spell of devils. In the first case, a Telugu girl, 
about seventeen years old, had been for some time 
possessed by her sister's husband, under whose influence 
she used to eat abnormal quantities of food, tear off her 
clothes, and use indecent language in a voice other than 
her own. When the European arrived in her room, the 
devil, speaking through the girl, threatened to kill her, 
or the European, or the individual who put it into her. 
Under the spell of a suitable mantram, the devil departed, 
and its return was prevented by the wearing of a yantram. 
The other case was that of a boy, who was possessed by 
a devil. He was found, on the occasion of the visit of 
the European, lying down in the courtyard of his house, 
clad in an ample loin-cloth, and with a high temperature. 
Suddenly, through some invisible agency, a corner of his 
loin-cloth caught fire, which was stamped out. It then 
caught fire in another place, and eventually was riddled 
with burnt holes. This was the way in which the devil 
manifested its influence, and sometimes the boy got burnt. 
A mantram was recited, with the result that the burning 
ceased, and the fever abated. An impromptu yantram 
was made out of vibhuti (sacred ashes), and tied round 
the boy's neck. A religious mendicant came along a 
short time afterwards, and treated the boy for some 
ordinary sickness not connected with the devil, but the 
medicine did him no good. Finding the yantram round 
his neck, the mendicant asserted that it was the cause 
of his failure, and ordered its removal. This the boy's 
relations refused to permit. But the holy man ripped it 
off. Whereon the boy instantly fell down comatose. 
In recording these two cases, I have reproduced my 


notes made on the occasion of an interview with the 

Reference has been made (p. i8o) to mantrams carved on 
stone pillars. The story of a stone slab at Rayalcheruvu 
in the Anantapur district, known as the yantram rayi or 
magic stone, is narrated by Mr Francis.* 

"The charm consists of eighty-one squares, nine each 
way, within a border of tridents. Each square contains 
one or more Telugu letters, but these will not combine 
into any intelligible words. At the bottom of the stone 
are cut a lingam and two pairs of foot -prints. Some 
twelve years ago, it is said, the village suffered severely 
from cholera for three years in succession, and a Telugu 
mason, a foreigner who was in the village at the time, 
cut this charm on the stone to stop the disease. It was 
set up with much ceremony. The mason went round 
the village at night without a stitch of clothing on him, 
and with the entrails of a sheep hanging round his neck. 
Many cocoanuts were offered to the stone, and many 
sheep slain before it. The mason tossed a lamb in the 
air, caught it as it fell, tore its throat open with his teeth, 
and then bounded forward, and spat out the blood. More 
sheep and cocoanuts were offered, and then the slab was 
set up. The mason naturally demanded a substantial 
return for the benefit he had conferred on the inhabitants. 
When cholera now breaks out, the villagers subscribe 
together, and do puja (worship) to the stone in accord- 
ance with directions left by him." 

Of similar stones in the South Arcot district, Mr 
Francis writes as follows f : — 

'* In several villages in the west of the district are 
magical slabs, which are supposed to cure cholera and cattle 
disease. On them, surrounded by a border of trisulas 

* " Gazetteer of the Anantapur District," 1905, i. 198. 
t " Gazetteer of the South Arcot District," 1906, i. 93. 


(the trident of Siva) are cut a series of little squares, in 
each of which is some Tamil letter. The villagers usually 
explain their existence by saying that, some forty years 
ago, an ascetic, whom they call the sangili (chain) sanyasi 
from his predilection for wearing red-hot chains round 
his neck, came there when cholera and cattle disease 
were rife, and (for a consideration) put up these slabs 
to ward off his ills. He left directions that, when either 
disease reappeared, io8 pots of water were to be poured 
over the slab, io8 bilva {^gle Marmelos) leaves tied to 
it and so on, and that men and animals were then 
to walk through the water which had been poured 
over it." 

Mr Francis writes further* that "in many places, 
stone slabs may be seen set up in the outskirts of the 
villages, on what are said to be the old boundaries. 
These are thought to be able to ward off sickness, and 
other harm which threatens to enter the place, and are 
revered accordingly. Some are quite blank, others have 
letters cut on them, while others again bear the rude 
outline of a deity, and are accordingly given such names 
as Pidari or Ellai Amman (the goddess of the boundary). 
To these last, periodical worship is often performed, but, 
in the case of the others, the attentions of the villagers 
are confined to an annual ceremony, whereat cocoanuts 
are broken, camphor is burnt, and a light is placed on 
the stone." 

It was noted by Lieutenant R. F. Burton f that, in 
some hamlets, the Kotas of the Nllgiris have set up 
curiously carved stones, which they consider sacred, and 
attribute to them the power of curing diseases, if the 
member affected is rubbed against them. At cross- 
roads in Bellary, odd geometric patterns may sometimes 

* " Gazetteer of the South Arcot District," 1906, i. 92-3. 
t " Goa and the Blue Mountains," 1851, 339. 


To face p. 185. 


be noticed. These are put there at night by people 
suffering from disease, in the hope that the affliction will 
pass to the person who first treads on the charm.* 

As examples of yantrams, the following, selected from 
a very large repertoire, may be cited : — 

Ganapathi yantram should be drawn on metal, and 
worship performed. It is then enclosed in a metal cylinder, 
and tied by a thread round the neck of females, or the 
waist or arm of men. It will cure disease, conquer an 
enemy, or entice any one. If the sacred fire is kept up 
while the formula is being repeated, and dry cocoanut, 
plantain fruits, money, ghi (clarified butter), and sweet 
bread put into it, the owner will be blessed with wealth 
and prosperity. 

Bhadrakali yantram. The figure is drawn on the 
floor with flour or rice, turmeric, charcoal powder, and 
leaves of the castor-oil plant. If the deity is worshipped 
at night, it will lead to the acquisition of knowledge, 
strength, freedom from disease and impending calamities, 
wealth, and prosperity. If puja (worship) is celebrated 
by a mantravadi for twelve days with the face turned 
towards the south, it will produce the death of an enemy. 

Sudarsana yantram, when drawn on a sheet of metal, 
and enclosed in a cylinder worn round the neck or on 
the arm, will relieve those who are ill or possessed by 
devils. If it is drawn on butter spread on a plantain 
leaf, puja performed, and the butter given to a barren 
woman, there will be no danger to herself or her future 

Suthakadosham yantram. Children under one year of 

age are supposed to be affected, if they are seen by a 

woman on the fourth day of menstruation with wet clothes 

and empty stomach after bathing. She may not even 

* " Gazetteer of the Bellary District,' 1904, i. 60, 


see her own baby or husband till she has changed her 
clothes, and taken food. To avert the evil, a waist- 
band, made of the bark of the arka plant {Calotropis 
giganiea), is worn. 

Sarabha yantram will cure persons suffering from 
epilepsy or intermittent fever. 

Subramaniya yantram, if regularly worshipped, will 
expel devils from those attacked by them, and from 

Hanuman yantram will protect those who are out on 
dark nights, and produce bodily strength and wisdom. If 
drawn on a sheet of gold, and puja is performed to it 
every Saturday, it will bring prosperity, and help pregnant 
women during their confinement. 

Pakshi yantram, if drawn on a sheet of lead, and kept 
in several places round a house, will keep snakes away. 

Vatugabhairava yantram cures disease in those who 
are under eighteen years old, and drives out all kinds of 
evil spirits. If ashes are smeared on the face, and the 
mantram is uttered sixteen times, it will be very effective. 

Varati yantram is very useful to any one who wishes 
to kill an enemy. He should sit in a retired spot at night, 
with his face turned towards the south, and repeat the 
mantram a thousand times for twenty days. 

Prathingiri yantram is drawn on a sheet of lead, and 
buried at a spot over which a person, whose death is 
desired, will pass. It is then placed on the floor, on which 
the sacred fire is kindled. The mantram should be 
repeated eight hundred times for seven nights. 

Chamundi and Raktha Chamundi yantrams are used 
for causing the death of enemies. The mantram should 
be written on a sheet of lead, and puja, with the sacrifice 
of toddy and mutton, performed. 

Asvaruda yantram enables a person wearing it to cover 


To face p. 186. 



long distances on horseback, and he can make the most 
refractory horse amenable by tying it round its neck.* 

An inhabitant of Malabar presented Mr Fawcett with 
a yantram against the evil eye, which, if whispered over 
a piece of string, and tied round any part of the body 
affected, would work an instantaneous cure. A Cheruman 
at Calicut, who was wearing on his loin-string a copper 
cylinder containing a brass strip with mantrams, sold it to 
me for a rupee with the assurance that it would protect 
me from devils. 

To produce an ulcer, which will cause the death of an 
enemy in ninety days, a mantram is written on a piece of 
cadjan (palm leaf), enclosed in an egg with a small quantity 
of earth on which he has urinated, and buried in an ant- 
hill. A fowl is killed, and its blood and some toddy are 
poured over the egg. To cure fever, the formula is written 
with the finger in water contained in a basin, and the appro- 
priate words are repeated while the water is being drunk. 

By some Muhammadans, on festival days, the names 
of holy persons, together with their sayings, are written 
on mango or palmyra leaves in ink made of charred rice. 
When the ink is dry, the leaves are washed in water, 
which is drunk. This is supposed to cure people of many 
obstinate diseases. A European official was informed by 
a Native magistrate in the Vizagapatam district that, when 
he wanted to tear up some old abkari (liquor) licenses, a 
man implored him not to do so, as they had brought him 
life for a year, and were therefore worshipped. So the 
medicine was water, in which an old license had been dipped. 

It is recorded f by Mr Logan that **in 1877, a poor 
Mappilla (Muhammadan) women residing in one of the 
Laccadive islands was put upon her trial for witchcraft 

* F. Fawcett, Madras Museum Bull.^ 1901, iii., No. 3, 307. 
t ''Malabar," 1887,!. 175. 


for importing into the island a betel leaf with a 
certain cabalistic and magical inscription on it ; but 
it fortunately turned out for her that she had merely 
pounded it up, and rubbed it over her daughter's body to 
cure her of fits. Ibn Batuta (the Arab traveller who 
visited South India in the fourteenth century) wrote of a 
Malayali king who was converted to Islam by the leaf of 
' the tree of testimony,' a tree of which it was related to him 
that it does not generally drop its leaves, but at the season 
of autumn in every year one of them changes its colour, 
first to yellow, then to red, and that upon this is written 
* There is no God but God : Muhammad is the Prophet of 
God,' and that this leaf alone falls. The falling of the leaf 
was an annual event, and the leaf itself was efficacious in 
curing diseases. Nowadays the belief among the Muham- 
madans still subsists, that the leaves of a certain tree grow- 
ing on Mount Deli (in Malabar) possess similar virtues." 

Metal bowls, engraved both on the outside and inside 
with texts from the Quran, are taken or sent by 
Muhammadans to Mecca, where they are placed at the 
head of the tomb of the Prophet, and blessed. They are 
highly valued, and used in cases of sickness for the 
administration of medicine or nourishment. 

It is on record that, at the battle of Seringapatam in 
1799, an officer took from off the right arm of the dead 
body of Tipu Sultan a talisman, which contained sewed 
up in pieces of fine flowered silk a charm made of a 
brittle metallic substance of the colour of silver, 
and some manuscripts in magic Arabic and Persian 
characters. A notorious Mappilla dacoit, who was shot 
by the police a few years ago, and whom his co- 
religionists tried to make a saint, was at the time of his 
death wearing five copper and silver charm cylinders 
round his waist. 


It is noted by Mr Logan* that "when affliction 
comes, the animal affected is served with grass, fruit, 
etc., on which charms have been whispered, or is 
bathed in charmed water, or has a talisman in the 
shape of a palm leaf inscribed with charms rolled up 
and tied round its neck." 

The tooth or claw of a tiger, worn on the neck or 
round the loins, is considered effective against evil 
influences. A tiger's whiskers are held to be a most 
potent poison when chopped up ; so, when a tiger is 
killed, the whiskers are immediately singed off.f They 
are represented in stuffed heads by the delicate bristles 
of the porcupine. When a Savara of Ganjam is killed 
by a tiger, the Kudang goes through a performance on 
the following Sunday to prevent a similar fate overtaking 
others. Two pigs are killed outside the village, and 
every man, woman, and child is made to walk over the 
ground whereon the pig's blood is spilled, and the 
Kudang gives to each individual some kind of tiger 
medicine as a charm. $ 

In Malabar the tusks of a wild boar are, in cases of 
protracted labour, pressed over the abdomen of the woman 
from above downwards. 

The hair of the bear is enclosed in a casket or cylinder, 
and tied to the girdle round the loins of male children, 
and in strings round the neck of female children, as a 
remedy against fever, and to prevent involuntary dis- 
charge of urine during sleep. § 

One of the occupations of the Kuruvikkarans (bird- 
catchers and beggars) is the manufacture and sale of 

* "Malabar," 1887, i. 175. 

t M. J. Walhouse, " Ind. Ant.," 1876, v. 23. 

X F. Fawcett, yio«r«. Anthrop. Soc, Bombay, \. 260. 

§ "Manual of the Kurnool District," 1886, 116. 


spurious jackal horns, known as narikompu. To catch 
the jackals they make an enclosure of a net, inside which 
a man seats himself armed with a big stick. He then 
proceeds to execute a perfect imitation of the jackal's cry, 
on hearing which the jackals come running to see what 
is the matter, and are beaten down. Sometimes the 
entire jackal's head is sold, skin and all. The process of 
manufacture of the horn is as follows. After the brain 
has been removed, the skin is stripped off a limited area 
of the skull, and the bone at the place of junction of the 
sagittal and lambdoid sutures above the occipital foramen 
is filed away, so that only a point, like a bony outgrowth, 
is left. The skin is then brought back, and pressed over 
the little horn which pierces it. The horn is also said to 
be made out of the molar tooth of a dog or jackal, intro- 
duced through a small hole in a piece of jackal's skin, 
round which a little blood or turmeric paste is smeared 
to make it look more natural. In most cases only the 
horn, with a small piece of skull and skin, is sold. Some- 
times, instead of the skin from the part where the horn 
is made, a piece of skin is taken from the snout, where 
the long black hairs are. The horn then appears sur- 
rounded by long black bushy hairs. The Kuruvikkarans 
explain that, when they see a jackal with such long hairs 
on the top of its head, they know that it possesses a horn. 
A horn-vendor, whom I interviewed, assured me that the 
possessor of a horn is a small jackal, which comes out of 
its hiding-place on full-moon nights to drink the dew. 
According to another version, the horn is only possessed 
by the leader of a pack of jackals. A nomad Dommara, 
whom I saw at Coimbatore, carried a bag containing a 
miscellaneous assortment of rubbish used in his capacity 
as medicine-man and snake-charmer, which included a 
collection of spurious jackal horns. To prove the genuine- 


ness thereof, he showed me not only the horn, but also 
the feet with nails complete, as evidence that the horns 
were not made from the nails. Being charged with 
manufacturing the horns, he swore, by placing his hand 
on the head of a child who accompanied him, that he 
was not deceiving me. The largest of the horns in his 
bag, he gravely assured me, was from a jackal which he 
dug out of its hole on the last new-moon night. The 
Sinhalese and Tamils regard the horn as a talisman, and 
believe that its fortunate possessor can command the 
realisation of every wish. Those who have jewels to 
conceal rest in perfect security if, along with them, they 
can deposit a narikompu.* The ayah (nurse) of a friend 
who possessed such a talisman, remarked : '' Master going 
into any law-court, sure to win the case." Two horns, 
which I possessed, were stolen from my study table, to 
bring luck to some Tamil member of my establishment. 

The nasal bone of a jackal or fox, enclosed in a 
receptacle, is believed to ward off many evils. The nose 
of a hycena is also held in great estimation as a charm. 
When a hyaena is killed, the end of the nose is cut off and 
dried, and is supposed to be a sovereign charm in cases 
of difficult labour, indigestion, and boils, if applied to the 
nostrils of the patient. f 

In Malabar, silver finger-rings with a piece of bristle 
from the tail of an elephant set in them, are worn as a 

In the Vizagapatam district, a most efficacious charm, 
supposed to render a man invulnerable to every ill, 
consists of a small piece of black wool, given to every one 
who takes a black sheep for the priest of a temple on 
the Bopelli ghat. Another much valued charm in this 

* Tennent, "Ceylon," i860, i. 145. 

t "Manual of the Cuddapah District," 1875, 292. 


district is called chemru mausa, which is described as 
being a small musk-rat only an inch and a half long, very 
scarce, and only found on rocky hills. It is worn in a 
gold or silver receptacle on the arm, and is supposed to 
render a man invulnerable against sword cuts and musket 
shots. In like manner, a mixture of gingelly {Sesamum) 
oil, the red dye which women use, and other ingredients, 
put into a small piece of hollow bamboo, and worn on the 
arm, are believed to protect a man against being shot 
with a bow or musket. 

Many of the Kadir infants on the Anaimalai hills 
have tied round the neck a charm, which takes the form 
of a dried tortoise foot ; the tooth of a crocodile mimick- 
ing a phallus, and supposed to ward off attacks from a 
mythical water elephant which lives in the mountain 
streams, or wooden imitations of tiger's claws. 

The joints taken from the tail of the black scorpion 
are believed to ward off illness, if children wear them on 
their waist-thread.* 

Of charms worn by the Nambutiri Brahmans in 
Malabar, the following are recorded by Mr F. Fawcettf : — 

Ring, in which an anavarahan coin is set. This is a 
very lucky ring. Spurious imitations are often set in rings, 
but it is the genuine one which brings good luck. 

Gold case fastened to a string round the waist, and 
containing a figure written on a silver plate. The man 
had worn it for three years, having put it on because he 
used to feel hot during the cold season, and attributed 
his condition to the influence of an evil spirit. 

Two cylinders, one of gold, the other of silver. In 
each were some chakrams (Travancore silver coins) and 
a gold leaf, on which a charm was inscribed. One of 

* Madras Mail, 26th January, 1906. 

•]• Madras Museum Bull., 1900, iii., No. i, 41. 


the charms was prepared by a Mappilla, the other by 
a Nambutiri. 

In connection with the wearing of charms by the 
Nayars of Malabar, Mr Fawcett writes * as follows : — 

"One individual wore two rings made of an amalgamation 
of gold and copper, called tambak on the ring-finger of the 
right hand for good luck. Tambak rings are lucky rings. 
It is a good thing to wash the face with the hand, on which 
is a tambak ring. Another wore two rings of the pattern 
called triloham on the ring-finger of each hand. Each 
of these was made during an eclipse. An Akattu Charna 
Nayar wore an amulet, to keep off the spirit of a Brahman 
who died by drowning." 

As examples of charms worn by Bedar men in the 
Canarese country, the following may be cited : — 

String tied round right arm with metal box attached to 
it, to drive away devils. String round ankle for the same 

Necklet of coral and ivory beads worn as a vow to the 
goddess Huligamma. 

Necklets of ivory beads, and a gold disc with the 
Vishnupad (feet of Vishnu) engraved on it, purchased 
from a religious mendicant to bring good luck. 

In an account of the Mandulas (medicine-men) of the 
Telugu country. Bishop Whitehead records f that a baby 
three days old had an anklet made of its mother's hair tied 
round the right ankle, to keep off the evil eye. The 
mother, too, had round her ankle a similar anklet, which 
she put on before her confinement. One of the men 
was also wearing an anklet of hair, as he had recently 
been bitten by a snake. 

A metal charm-cylinder is sometimes attached to the 

* Madras Museum Bull., 1901, iii., No. 3, 195-6. 
f Madras Dioc. Mag., July, 1905. 



sacred thread, which is worn by Devangas (a weaving 
caste), who claim to be Devanga Brahmans. 

I have seen the child of a Kuruba (Canarese agri- 
culturist) priest wearing a necklet with a copper ornament 
engraved with cabalistic devices, a silver plate bearing 
a figure of Hanuman (the monkey god), as all his other 
children had died, and a piece of pierced pottery from 
the burial-ground, to ward off whooping-cough. The 
Rev. S. Nicholson informs me that, if a Mala (Telugu 
Pariah) child grinds its teeth in its sleep, a piece of a 
broken pot is brought from a graveyard, and, after being 
smoked with incense, tied round the child's neck with a 
piece of string rubbed with turmeric, or with a piece of 
gut. In the Tamil country, the bark of a tree on which 
any one has hanged himself, a cord with twenty-one knots, 
and the earth from a child's grave, are hung round the 
neck, or tied to the waist-string as talismans. 

A Kota woman at Kotagiri on the Nilgiris, was wear- 
ing a glass necklet, with a charm pendant from it, consist- 
ing of the root of some tree rolled up in a ball of cloth. 
She put it on when her baby was quite young, to protect 
it against devils. The baby had a similar charm on its 
neck. By some jungle Chenchus pieces of stick strung 
on a thread, or seeds of Givotia rottlerifortnis are worn, to 
ward off various forms of pain. 

Small flat plates of copper, called takudu, are frequently 
worn by Tamil Paraiyan children. One side is divided 
into sixteen squares in which what look like the Telugu 
numerals nine, ten, eleven and twelve, are engraved. On 
the other side a circle is drawn, which is divided into eight 
segments, in each of which a Telugu letter is inscribed. 
This charm is supposed to protect the wearer from harm 
coming from any of the eight cardinal points of the Indian 
compass. Charms, in the form of metal cylinders, are 


worn for the same purpose by adults and children, and 
procured from some exorcist.* 

By some Medaras of the Telugu country, a figure 
of Hanuman (the monkey god) is engraved on a thin 
plate of gold with cabalistic letters inscribed on it, and 
worn on the neck. On eclipse days, a piece of root of the 
arka plant {Calotropis giganted) is worn on the neck of 
females, and on the waist or arm of males. 

In a note regarding moon-shaped amulets against the 
evil eye described by Professor Tylor,f Mr Walhouse 
mentions that crescents, made of thin plates of metal, some- 
times gold, are worn by children on the west coast, 
suspended upon the breast with the point upwards. 
Neck ornaments in the form of a crescent are commonly 
worn by Muhammadan children. 

Concerning the use of coins as charms, Mr V. 
Devasahayam writes as follows % : — 

''Seeing a woman with several old coins strung on 
the tali (marriage badge) string round the neck, I offered 
to buy them of her for a good price, but got only a 
torrent of abuse, since she, in her ignorance and super- 
stition, supposed that Lutchmi, the goddess of fortune, 
would forsake her if she parted with the coins. In 
Tranquebar there lives a head mason, who always carries 
in his betel-nut bag a copper coin bearing the inscription 
of Koneri Rayan, one of the later Pandyans or early 
Nayakars. The man would on no account part with this 
coin, for he believes that his success in business has 
improved since he came into possession of it, and that it 
will continue as long as he carries it with him. He says 
that he shall bequeath it to his family at his death, to 
hold in veneration almost amounting to worship. For 

* Rev. A. C Clayton, Madras Museum Bull., 1906, v., No. 2, 86. 

t Joum. Anthrop. Inst.., 1890, xix., 56. 

\ Madras Christian Coll. Mag.., January, 1907, vi. No. 7. 


dog bite, some Natives tie an old copper coin with a 
bandage over the wound, and wear it till it has healed. 
Others rub the coin against a copper vessel, using a few 
drops of the juice of the datura plant in order to form a 
paste, and apply the paste to the wound. Whooping- 
cough is believed to be caused by the displeasure of 
Bhairava, the dog-god, and the whooping is regarded 
as a sort of barking, under possession by the god. To 
appease his anger, an old coin is hammered into a flat 
round disc, a rude figure of a dog engraved on it, and 
suspended as a charm to the sick child's waist. In the 
treatment of skin disease, dyspepsia, and leprosy, old 
copper coins are ground to dust, heated till the dust is 
like ashes, and administered medicinally. Soon after a 
Sonaga woman is delivered of a child, she is made to 
swallow a small old copper coin together with some water. 
Natives believe that, during delivery, the whole system 
is so irritated that strong counter - irritants must be 
administered to prevent tetanus." 

Mercury cups, said to be made of an amalgam of 
mercury and tin, are stated to possess the property of 
allowing mercury, when poured in, to ooze through 
them, and pass out. Milk preserved in such a cup for 
a few hours is said to turn into hard curd. Milk kept 
over night in one of these cups, or an amulet made from 
the cup materials, are believed to exercise a most potent 
influence over the male fertilising element. Such an 
amulet, applied to the neck of a chorister, is said to have 
increased his vocal powers three or four times. Piles, 
and other bodily ailments, are believed to be cured by 
wearing rings, in the composition of which mercury is 
one of the ingredients. 

In a case which was tried before a magistrate in 
Travancore, the accused, in order to win his case, had 
concealed in his under-cloth some yantrams, which had 


been prepared for him by a sorcerer. The plaintiff, 
having got scent of this, gave information, and the 
charms were handed over to the magistrate. It is 
recorded in the Vigada Thuthan that, when a woman 
who gets tired of her husband sues him for maintenance, 
she wears charm bundles (manthira kattu), so that his 
evidence may be confused and incoherent. Such charms 
are said to be concealed in the hair of the head or in 
the headdress, and generally to consist of a lime fruit, 
which has been charmed by magical spells in a grave- 
yard, after the sorcerer has performed certain ceremonies 
to guard him against devils catching him during the 
incantations. It is said that, in former times, if the 
chastity of a Tamil Paraiyan bride was suspected, she 
had to establish her virtue by picking some cakes out 
of boiling oil, and then husking some rice with her bare 
hand. Her hair, nails, and clothes were examined, to 
see that she had no charm concealed about her.* 

A friend once dismissed a servant for cheating and 
lying. A short time afterwards, he found nailed to a 
teapoy a paper scroll containing a jasmine flower tied 
up with coloured threads. On the scroll were inscribed 
in Tamil the mystic syllable, "Om," and " Nama Siva 
R. U. Masthan Sahibu avergal padame thunai " (I seek 
for help at the feet of Masthan sahib). Masthan is a 
Muhammad saint. The servant of a European police 
officer, who had been caught out in all sorts of mal- 
practices, tried to win back the good-will of his master 
by means of a charm, for which he paid fifteen rupees, 
placed under his master's pillow. 

It is recorded by Marco Polo f that South Indian 

* Rev. A. C. Clayton, Madras Museum Bull., 1906, v., No. 2, 66. 
t "The Book of Ser Marco Polo, the Venetian," translation, 3rd 
ed., 1903, ii. 332. 


pearl divers * call in the services of an Abraiman 
(Brahman?) to charm the sharks. ** And their charm 
holds good for that day only ; for at night they dissolve 
the charm, so that the fishes can work mischief at their 
will." The prospects of a pearl fishery, when success seems 
certain, may be abruptly ruined by accidents from sharks, 
of which the divers have a superstitious, but not altogether 
unreasonable, dread. Before the fishery of 1889, at which 
I was present, the divers of Kilakarai on the Madura 
coast, as a preliminary to starting for the scene thereof, 
performed a ceremony, at which prayers were offered 
for protection against the attacks of sharks. 

" The only precaution,*' Tennent writes, f "to which the 
Ceylon diver devotedly resorts is the mystic ceremony of 
the shark-charmer, whose power is believed to be hereditary. 
Nor is it supposed that the value of his incantations is at 
all dependent upon the religious faith professed by the 
operator, for the present head of the family happens to be a 
Roman Catholic. At the time of our visit, this mysterious 
functionary was ill, and unable to attend ; but he sent an 
accredited substitute, who assured me that, although he was 
himself ignorant of the grand and mystic secret, the fact 
of his presence, as a representative of the higher authority, 
would be recognised and respected by the sharks." 

At the Tuticorin fishery in 1890, a scare was produced 
by a diver being bitten by a shark, but subsided as soon 
as a "wise woman" was employed. Her powers do not, 
however, seem to have been great, for more cases of shark- 
bite occurred, and the fishery had to be abandoned at a 
time when favourable breezes, clear water, plenty of boats, 
and oysters selling at a good price, indicated a successful 
financial result. 

♦ The pearl fisheries are conducted from Tuticorin in the Tinnevelly 

t "Ceylon," i860, ii. 564-5. 



"The best known case," Mr Frazer writes,* "of human 
sacrifices systematically offered to ensure good crops, is 
supplied by the Khonds or Kandhs, a Dravidian race 
in Bengal and Madras. Our knowledge of them is de- 
rived from the accounts written by British officers, who, 
forty or fifty years ago, were engaged in putting them 
down. The sacrifices were offered to the earth goddess, 
Tari Pennu or Bera Pennu, and were believed to ensure , 

good crops, and immunity from all diseases and accidents. V 
In particular, they were considered necessary in the cultiva- 
tion of turmeric, the Khonds arguing that the turmeric 
could not have a deep red colour without the shedding 
of blood. The victim, a Meriah, was acceptable to the 
goddess only if he had been purchased, or had been born 
a victim, that is, the son of a victim father, or had been 
devoted as a child by his father or guardian." 

In 1837, Mr Russell, in a report on the districts 
entrusted to his control, wrote as follows t ' — 

"The ceremonies attending the barbarous rite (Kondh 
human sacrifice) vary in different parts of the country. 
In the Maliahs of Goomsur, the sacrifice is offered annually 
to Thadha Pennoo, under the e^gy of a bird intended to 

* "The Golden Bough," 1900, ii. 241 el seq. Bibliography of human 
sacrifice among the Kondhs, see Thurston, " Castes and Tribes of 
Southern India," 1909, iii. 412-5. 

t " Selections from the Records of the Government of India," No. v., 
Suppression of human sacrifice and infanticide, 1854. The subject of 
Meriah sacrifice is also dealt with by F. E. Penny, in her novel entitled 
" Sacrifice," 1910. 



represent a peacock, with the view of propitiating the 
deity to grant favourable seasons and crops. The ceremony 
is performed at the expense of, and in rotation, by certain 
mootahs (districts) composing a community, and con- 
nected together from local circumstances. Besides these 
periodical sacrifices, others are made by single mootahs, 
and even by individuals, to avert any threatening calamity 
from sickness, murrain, or other causes. Grown men are 
the most esteemed (as victims), because the most costly. 
Children are purchased, and reared for years with the 
family of the person who ultimately devotes them to a 
cruel death, when circumstances are supposed to demand 
av sacrifice at his hands. They seem to be treated with 
kmdness, and, if young, are kept under no constraint ; 
but, when old enough to be sensible of the fate that awaits 
them, they are placed in fetters, and guarded. Most of 
those who were rescued had been sold by their parents 
or nearest relations, a practice which, from all we could 
learn, is very common. Persons of riper age are kid- 
napped by wretches who trade in human flesh. The 
victim must always be purchased. Criminals, or prisoners 
captured in war, are not considered fitting subjects. The 
price is paid indifferently in brass utensils, cattle, or coin. 
The zanee (or priest), who may be of any caste, officiates 
at the sacrifice, but he performs the poojah (offering of 
flowers, incense, etc.) to the idol through the medium 
of the Toomba, who must be a Khond child under seven 
years of age. This child is fed and clothed at the public 
expense, eats with no other person, and is subjected to 
no act deemed impure. For a month prior to the sacrifice, 
there is much feasting and intoxication, and dancing round 
the Meriah, who is adorned with garlands, etc., and, on 
the day before the performance of the barbarous rite, is 
stupefied with toddy, and made to sit, or, if necessary, 
is bound at the bottom of a post bearing the effigy above 
described. The assembled multitude then dance around 
to music, and, addressing the earth, say * Oh ! God, we 
offer the sacrifice to you. Give us good cropsj seasons, 


and health.' After which they address the victim. * We 
bought you with a price, and did not seize you. Now 
we sacrifice you according to custom, and no sin rests 
with us.' On the following day, the victim being again 
intoxicated, and anointed with oil, each individual present 
touches the anointed part, and wipes the oil on his own 
head. All then proceed in procession around the village 
and its boundaries, preceded by music, bearing the victim 
and a pole, to the top of which is attached a tuft of 
peacock's feathers. On returning to the post, which 
is always placed near the village deity called Zakaree 
Pennoo, and represented by three stones, near which the 
brass effigy in the shape of the peacock is buried, they 
kill a pig in sacrifice, and, having allowed the blood to 
flow into a pit prepared for the purpose, the victim who, 
if it has been found possible, has been previously made 
senseless from intoxication, is seized and thrown in, and 
his face pressed down until he is suffocated in the bloody 
mire amid the noise of instruments. The Zanee then" 
cuts a piece of the flesh from the body, and buries it with 
ceremony near the effigy and village idol, as an offering 
to the earth. All the rest afterwards go through the 
same form, and carry the bloody prize to their villages, 
where the same rites are performed, part being interred 
near the village idol, and little bits on the boundaries. 
The head and face remain untouched, and the bones, when 
bare, are buried with them in the pit. After this horrid 
ceremony has been completed, a buffalo calf is brought 
in front of the post, and, his forefeet having been cut off, 
is left there till the following day. Women, dressed in 
male attire, and armed as men, then drink, dance, and 
sing round the spot, the calf is killed and eaten, and the 
Zanee is dismissed with a present of rice, and a hog or calf." 

In the same year, Mr Arbuthnot, Collector of Vizaga- 
patam, reported as follows : — 

"Of the hill tribe Codooloo (Kondh), there are said to 
be two distinct classes, the Cotia Codooloo and Jathapoo 




J I Codooloo. The former class is that which is in the habit 
I of offering human sacrifices to the god called Jenkery, 
iwith a view to secure good crops. This ceremony is 
generally performed on the Sunday preceding or follow- 
ing the Pongal feast. The victim is seldom carried by 
force, but procured by purchase, and there is a fixed price 
for each person, which consists of forty articles such as 
a bullock, a male buffalo, a cow, a goat, a piece of cloth, 
a silk cloth, a brass pot, a large plate, a bunch of plantains, 
etc. The man who is destined for the sacrifice is immedi- 
ately carried before the god, and a small quantity of 
rice coloured with saffron (turmeric) is put upon his head. 
The influence of this is said to prevent his attempting to 
escape, even though set at liberty. It would appear, how- 
ever, that, from the moment of his seizure till he is sacrificed, 
he is kept in a continued state of stupefaction or intoxica- 
tion. He is allowed to wander about the village, to eat 
and drink anything he may take a fancy to, and even to 
have connection with any of the women whom he may 
meet. On the morning set apart for the sacrifice, he is 
^ ^ I carried before the idol in a state of intoxication. One of 
\j^ ^ /the villagers officiates as priest, who cuts a small hole in 
^ V^ /the stomach of the victim, and with the blood that flows 
from the wound the idol is besmeared. Then the crowds 
from the neighbouring villages rush forward, and he is 
literally cut into pieces. Each person who is so fortunate 
as to procure it carries away a morsel of the flesh, and 
presents it to the idol of his own village." 



Concerning a method of Kondh sacrifice, which is 

,^,^, illustrated by the wooden post preserved in the Madras 

"; ^^ Museum, Colonel Campbell records* that "one of the 

"^^ >y9 most common ways of offering the sacrifice in Chinna 

\(C, J' Kimedi is to the efligy of an elephant (hatti mundo or 

V'kntA elephant's head) rudely carved in wood, fixed on the top 

K^ * "^^'■sonal Narrative of Service among the Wild Tribes of 

ty Khondistan," 1864. 

{Haiti iinindo.) 



of a stout post, on which it is made to revolve. After 
the performance of the usual ceremonies, the intended 
victim is fastened to the proboscis of the elephant, and, 
amidst the shouts and yells of the excited multitude of 
Khonds, is rapidly whirled round, when, at a given signal 
by the officiating Zanee or priest, the crowd rush in, seize 
the Meriah, and with their knives cut the flesh off the 
shrieking wretch so long as life remains. He is then cut 
down, the skeleton burnt, and the horrid orgies are over. 
In several villages I counted as many as fourteen effigies 
of elephants, which had been used in former sacrifices. 
These I caused to be overthrown by the baggage elephants 
attached to my camp in the presence of the assembled 
Khonds, to show them that these venerated objects had 
no power against the living animal, and to remove all 
vestiges of their bloody superstition." 

It is noted by Risley* that, while the crowd hacked"^ 
the body of the victim, they chanted a ghastly hymn, an 
extract from which illustrates very clearly the theory of 
sympathetic magic underlying the ritual : — 

'* As the tears stream from thine eyes, 
So may the rain pour down in August ; 
As the mucus trickles from thy nostrils, 
So may it drizzle at intervals ; 
As thy blood gushes forth, 
So may the vegetation sprout ; 
As thy gore falls in drops, /^ 

So may the grains of rice form." 

In another report, Colonel Campbell describes how the 
miserable victim is dragged along the fields, surrounded 
by a crowd of half intoxicated Kondhs who, shouting and 
screaming, rush upon him, and with their knives cut the 
flesh piecemeal from the bones, avoiding the head and 
* " The People of India," 1908, 62. 






bowels, till the living skeleton, dying from loss of blood, 
is relieved from torture, when its remains are burnt, and 
the ashes mixed with the new grain to preserve it from 
insects. Yet again, he describes a sacrifice which was 
peculiar to the Kondhs of Jeypore. 

"It is," he says, "always succeeded by the sacrifice 
of three human beings, two to the sun in the east and 
[west of the village, and one in the centre, with the usual 
barbarities of the Meriah. A stout wooden post about 
six feet long is firmly fixed in the ground, at the foot 
of it a narrow grave is dug, and to the top of the post 
the victim is firmly fastened by the long hair of his 
head. Four assistants hold his outstretched arms and 
legs, the body being suspended horizontally over the 
grave, with the face toward the earth. The officiating 
Junna or priest, standing on the right side, repeats the 
following invocation, at intervals hacking with his 
sacrificing knife the back part of the shrieking victim's 
neck. ' Oh ! mighty Manicksoro, this is your festal day. 
To the Khonds the offering is Meriah, to the kings 
Junna. On account of this sacrifice, you have given to 
kings kingdoms, guns, and swords. The sacrifice we 
now offer you must eat, and we pray that our battle-axes 
may be converted into swords, our bows and arrows into 
gunpowder and balls ; and, if we have any quarrels with 
other tribes, give us the victory. Preserve us from 
the tyranny of kings and their officers.' Then, address- 
ing the victim, ' That we may enjoy prosperity, we offer 
you as a sacrifice to our god Manicksoro, who will im- 
mediately eat you, so be not grieved at our slaying you. 
Your parents were aware, when we purchased you from 
them for sixty rupees, that we did so with intent to 
sacrifice you. There is, therefore, no sin on our heads, 
but on your parents. After you are dead, we shall 
perform your obsequies.' The victim is then decapitated, 
the body thrown into the grave, and the head left suspended 
from the post till devoured by wild beasts. The knife 


remains fastened to the post till the three sacrifices have 
been performed, when it is removed with much ceremony." 

The Kondhs of Bara Mootah promised to relinquish 
the Meriah rite on condition, inter alia, that they should 
be at liberty to sacrifice buffaloes, monkeys, goats, etc., 
to their deities, with all the solemnities observed on 
occasions of human sacrifice ; and that they should further 
be at liberty, upon all occasions, to denounce to their 
gods the Government, and some of its servants in 
particular, as the cause of their having relinquished the 
great rite. The last recorded Meriah sacrifice in the 
Ganjam Maliahs occurred in 1852, and there are still 
Kondhs alive, who were present at it. The veteran 
members of a party of Kondhs, who were brought to 
Madras for the purpose of performing their dances before 
the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1906, became widely 
excited when they came across the relic of their barbar- 
ous custom at the museum. Twenty-five descendants of 
persons who were rescued by Government officers, returned 
themselves as Meriah at the census, 1901. 

It is noted by Mr W. Francis that* "goats and 
buffaloes nowadays take the place of human meriah 
victims, but the belief in the superior efficacy of 
the latter dies hard, and every now and again revives. 
When the Rampa rebellion of 1879-80 spread in this 
district, several cases of human sacrifice occurred in the 
disturbed tracts. In 1880, two persons were convicted 
of attempting a meriah sacrifice near Ambadala in 
Bissamkatak. In 1883, a man (a beggar and a stranger) 
was found at daybreak murdered in one of the temples in 
Jeypore in circumstances which pointed to his having been 
slain as a meriah ; and, as late as 1886, a formal enquiry 
* " Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam District," 1907, i. 202. 


showed that there were ample grounds for the suspicion 
that the kidnapping of victims still went on in Bastar." 

Even so recently as 1902, a European magistrate in 
Ganjam received a petition, asking for permission to 
perform a human sacrifice, which was intended to give 
a rich colour to the turmeric crop. 

The flowers with which the sheep and goats which 
take the place of human beings are decorated are still 
known as meriah pushpa in Jeypore.* 

In an account f of a substituted sacrifice, which was 

carried out by the Kondhs in the Ganjam Maliahs in 1894, 

it is stated that, ''the Janni gave the buffalo a tap on the 

head with a small axe. An indescribable scene followed. 

The Khonds in a body fell on the animal, and, in an 

amazingly short time, literally tore the living victim to 

shreds with their knives, leaving nothing but the head, 

bones, and stomach. Death must mercifully have been 

almost instantaneous. Every particle of flesh and skin 

had been stripped off during the few minutes they fought 

and struggled over the buffalo, eagerly grasping for every 

atom of flesh. As soon as a man had secured a piece 

thereof, he rushed away with the gory mass, as fast as 

he could, to his fields, to bury it therein according to 

ancient custom, before the sun had set. As some of 

them had to do good distances to effect this, it was 

imperative that they should run very fast. A curious scene 

now took place. As the men ran, all the women flung 

after them clods of earth, some of them taking very good 

effect. The sacred grove was cleared of people, save a 

few that guarded the remnants left of the buffalo, which 

were taken, and burnt with ceremony at the foot of the 


* "Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam District," 1907, i. 2^2-3. 
t Madras Weekly Mail, 6th June, 1894. 


The buffalo sacrifice is not unaccompanied by risk, as 
the animal, before dying, sometimes kills one or more 
of its tormentors. This was the case near BalHguda in 
1899, when a buffalo killed the sacrificer. In the previous 
year, the desire of a village to intercept the bearer of 
the flesh from a neighbouring village led to a fight, in 
which two men were killed. 

Like the Kondhs, the Koyis of the Godavari district 
believe in the efficacy of a sacrifice, to ensure good crops. 
In this connection, the Rev. J. Cain writes* that "the 
Koyi goddess Mamili or Lele must be propitiated early 
in the year, or else the crops will undoubtedly fail ; 
and she is said to be very partial to human victims. 
There is strong reason to think that two men were 
murdered this year (1876) near a village not far from 
Dummagudem as offerings to this devata, and there is 
no reason to doubt that every year strangers are quietly 
put out of the way in the Bastar country, to ensure the 
favour of the bloodthirsty goddess." 

Mr Cain writes further f that a langur monkey is now 
substituted for the human victim under the name of 
erukomma potu or male with small breasts, in the hope 
of persuading the goddess that she is receiving a human 

On the site of the old fort at Ramagiri in the Vizaga- 
patam district, a victim was formerly sacrificed every 
third year. 

"The poor wretch was forced into a hole in the ground, 
three feet deep and eighteen inches square, at the bottom 
of which the goddess was supposed to dwell, his throat 
was cut, and the blood allowed to flow into the hole, 
and afterwards his head was struck off and placed on 

* " Ind. Ant.,'" 1876, v. 359. 

t Madras Christian Coll Mag., 1887-88, v. 357. 



his lap, and the mutilated body covered with earth and 
a mound of stones until the time for the next sacrifice 
came round, when the bones were taken out and thrown 
away. At Malkanagiri, periodical sacrifices occurred 
at the four gates of the fort, and the Rani had a victim 
slain as a thank - offering for her recovery from an 
illness." * 

The nomad Koravas are said to have formerly per- 
formed human sacrifices, one effect of which was to 
increase the fertility of the soil. The following account 
of such a sacrifice was given to Mr C. Hayavadana Rao 
by an old inhabitant of the village of Asur near Walajabad 
in the Chingleput district. A big gang of Koravas settled 
at the meeting point of three villages of Asur, Melputtur, 
and Avalur, on an elevated spot commanding the sur- 
rounding country. They had with them their pack- 
bullocks, each headman of the gang owning about two 
hundred head. The cow-dung which accumulated daily 
attracted a good many of the villagers, on one of whom 
the headman fixed as their intended victim. They made 
themselves intimate with him, plied him with drink and 
tobacco, and gave him the monopoly of the cow-dung. 
Thus a week or ten days passed away, and the Koravas 
then fixed a day for the sacrifice. They invited the 
victim to visit them at dusk, and witness a great festival 
in honour of their caste goddess. At the appointed hour, 
the man went to the settlement, and was induced to drink 
freely. Meanwhile, a pit, large enough for a man to stand 
upright in, had been prepared. At about midnight, the 
victim was seized, and forced to stand in the pit, which 
was filled in up to his neck. This done, the women and 
children of the gang made off with their belongings. As 
soon as the last of them had quitted the settlement, the 
♦ " Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam District," 1907, i: 202. 


headmen brought a large quantity of fresh cow-dung, and 

placed a ball of it on the head of the victim. The ball 

served as a support for an earthen lamp, which was 

lighted. The man was by this time nearly dead, and the 

cattle were made to pass over his head. The headmen 

then made off, and, by daybreak, the whole gang had 

disappeared. The sacrificed man was found by the 

villagers, who have, since that time, scrupulously avoided 

the Koravas. The victim is said to have turned into a 

Munisvara, and for a long time troubled those who 

happened to go near the spot at noon or midnight. The"] <--^f{<^-*' 

Koravas a re sa id to have perform ed the sacrifice, so as 

to insure th^ir Qatt\p. ji^airv^t-dpath trnm riis^ns^ The ^^T 

ground, on which they encamped, and on which they ' ^i""^ 
offered the human sacrifice, is stated to have been barren \, 

prior thereto, and, as the result thereof, to have become^ 0^ A-*^ 

very fertile. ^ j^ 

A similar form of human sacrifice was practised in \3r 

former days by the nomad Lambadis, concerning which v^W^ ^ 
the Abbe Dubois writes as follows * : — ^^C^"^ 

"When they wish to perform this horrible act, it is 
said, they secretly carry off the first person they meet. 
Having conducted the victim to some lonely spot, they 
dig a hole, in which they bury him up to the neck. While 
he is still alive, they make a sort of lamp of dough made 
of flour, which they place on his head. This they fill with 
oil, and light four wicks in it. Having done this, the 
men and women join hands, and, forming a circle, dance 
round their victim, singing and making a great noise, 
till he expires." 

It is recorded by the Rev. J. Cain f that the Lambadis 

* " Hindu Manners, Customs, and Ceremonies," translation by H. K. 
Beauchamp, 1897, i. 70-1. 

t "Ind. Ant.," 1879, viii. 219. 



confessed that, in former days, it was the custom among 
them, before starting out on a journey, to procure a little 
child, and bury it in the ground up to the shoulders, and 
then drive their loaded bullocks over the unfortunate 
victim. In proportion to their thoroughly trampling the 
child to death, so their belief in a successful journey 
increased. I am informed by the Rev. G. N. Thomssen 
that, at the present day, the Lambadis sacrifice a goat or 
chicken, in case of removal from one part of the jungle to 
another, when sickness has come. They hope to escape 
death by leaving one camping ground for another. Half- 
way between the old and new grounds, the animal selected 
is buried alive, the head being allowed to be above 
ground. Then all the cattle are driven over the buried 
creature, and the whole camp walk over the buried victim. 

In the course of an interview with Colonel Marshall on 
the subject of infanticide * among the Todas of the Nilgiri 
hills, an aged man of the tribe remarked thatf "those tell 
lies who say that we laid the child down before the opening 
of the buffalo-pen, so that it might be run over and killed 
by the animals. We never did such things, and it is 
all nonsense that we drowned it in buffaloes' milk. Boys 
were never killed — only girls ; not those who were sickly 
and deformed — that would be a sin ; but, when we had one 
girl, or in some families two girls, those that followed were 
killed. An old woman used to take the child immediately 
after it was born, and close its nostrils, ears, and mouth 
with a cloth. It would shortly droop its head and go to 
sleep. We then buried it in the ground." 

The old man's remark about the cattle-pen refers to 
the Malagasy custom of placing a new-born child at the 

* Infanticide, see Thurston, "Ethnographic Notes in Southern India," 
1907, 502-9. 

t Marshall, "A Phrenologist amongst the Todas," 1873, 195. 


entrance to a cattle-pen, and then driving the cattle over 
it, to see whether they would trample on it or not.* 

It is recorded by Bishop Whitehead, f in a note 
on offerings and sacrifices in the Telugu country, that 
''sometimes, when there is a cattle disease, a pig is buried 
up to its neck at the boundary of the village, a heap of 
boiled rice is deposited near the spot, and then all the 
cattle of the village are driven over the head of the 
unhappy pig. . . . When I was on tour in the Kurnool 
district, an old man described to me the account he had 
received from his ' forefathers ' of the ceremonies observed 
when founding a new village. An auspicious site is 
selected on an auspicious day, and then, in the centre of 
the site, is dug a large hole, in which are placed different 
kinds of grains, small pieces of the five metals, and a large 
stone called boddu-rayee (navel-stone), standing about three 
and a half feet above the ground, very like the ordinary 
boundary stones seen in the fields. Then, at the entrance 
of the village, in the centre of the main street, where 
most of the cattle pass in and out on their way to and from 
the fields, they dig another hole, and bury a pig alive." 

It is suggested by Bishop Whitehead that the custom 
of thus burying a pig may be connected with the worship 
of an agricultural goddess, or a survival of a former custom 
of infanticide or human sacrifice, such as prevailed among i 
the Lambadis. 

It has been suggested that certain rites performed by 
the Panan and Malayan exorcists of Malabar are survivals, 
or imitations of human sacrifice. Thus, in the Ucchaveli 
ceremony of the Panans for driving out devils, there is a 
mock burial of the principal performer, who is placed in 

* Ellis, " History of Madagascar." 

t " The Village Deities of Southern India," Madras Museum Bull., 
1907, V. 3, 137, 186. 



a pit. This is covered with planks, on the top of which 
a sacrifice (homam) is performed with a fire kindled with 
jak {Artocarpus integrifolid) branches.* 

The disguise of Ucchaveli is also assumed by the 
Malayans for the propitiation of the demon, when a human 
sacrifice is considered necessary. The Malayan who is 
to take the part puts on a cap made of strips of cocoanut 
leaf, and strips of the same leaves tied to a bent bamboo 
stick round his waist. His face and chest are daubed 
with yellow paint, and designs are drawn thereon in 
red or black. Strings are tied tightly round the left arm 
near the elbow and wrist, and the swollen area is pierced 
with a knife. The blood spouts out, and the performer 
waves the arm, so that his face is covered with blood. 
In the ceremony for propitiating the demon Nenaveli (bloody 
sacrifice), the Malayan smears the upper part of the body 
and face with a paste made of rice-flour reddened with 
turmeric powder and chunam (lime), to indicate a sacrifice. 
Before the paste dries, parched paddy (unhusked rice) 
grains, representing smallpox pustules, are sprinkled over 
it. Strips of young cocoanut leaves, strung together so as 
to form a petticoat, are tied round the waist, a ball of 
sacred ashes (vibhuthi) is fixed on the tip of the nose, 
and two strips of palm leaf are placed in the mouth to 
represent fangs. If it is thought that a human sacrifice 
is necessary to propitiate the devil, the man representing 
Nenaveli puts round his neck a kind of framework made 
of plantain leaf sheaths ; and, after he has danced with it 
on, it is removed, and placed on the ground in front of 
him. A number of lighted wicks are stuck in the middle 
of the framework, which is sprinkled with the blood of a 
fowl, and then beaten and crushed. Sometimes this is 
not regarded as sufficient, and the performer is made 
* " Gazetteer of Malabar," 1908, i. 132. 


to lie in a pit, which is covered over by a plank, and a 
fire kindled. A Malayan, who acted the part of Nenaveli 
before me, danced and gesticulated wildly, while a small 
boy, concealed behind him, sang songs in praises of the 
demon, to the accompaniment of a drum. At the end 
of the performance, he feigned extreme exhaustion, and 
laid on the ground in a state of apparent collapse, while 
he was drenched with water brought in pots from a 
neighbouring well. 

A very similar rite has been recorded by Mr Lewis 
Rice as being carried out by the Coorgs, when a particular 
curse, which can only be removed by an extraordinary 
sacrifice, rests on a house, stable, or field. Concerning 
this sacrifice, Mr Rice writes as follows*: — 

" The Kaniya (religious mendicant) f sends for some 
of his fraternity, the Panikas or Bannus, and they set to 
work. A pit is dug in the middle room of the house or in 
the yard, or in the stable, or in the field, as the occasion 
may require. Into this'one of the magicians descends. He 
sits down in Hindu fashion, muttering mantras. Pieces of 
wood are laid across the pit, and covered with earth a foot 
or two deep. Upon this platform a fire of jackwood is 
kindled, into which butter, sugar, different kinds of grain, 
etc., are thrown. This sacrifice continues all night, the 
Panika sacrificer above, and his immured colleague 
below, repeating their incantations all the while. In the 
morning the pit is opened, and the man returns to the 
light of day. These sacrifices are called maranada bali, 
or death atonements. Instead of a human being, a cock is 
sometimes shut up in the pit, and killed afterwards." 

Evidence is produced by Mr Rice + that, in former 
days, human sacrifices were offered in Coorg, to secure 

* "Mysore and Coorg Manual," 1878, iii. 265. 
t The Kaniyans of the west coast are exorcisers. 
+ " Mysore and Coorg Manual," 1878, iii. 264-5. 


the favour of the Grama Devatas (village goddesses) 
Mariamma, Durga, and Bhadra Kali. 

''In Kirinadu and Koniucheri Gramas," he writes, 
'* once every three years, in December and June, a human 
sacrifice used to be brought to Bhadra Kali, and, during 
the offering by the Panikas, the people exclaimed 'Al 
Amma' (a man, Oh mother), but once a devotee shouted 
'Al all Amma, Adu ' (not a man, oh mother, a goat), 
and since that time a he-goat without blemish has been 
sacrificed. Similarly, in Bellur, once a year, by turns 
from each house, a man was sacrificed by cutting off 
his head at the temple ; but, when the turn came to 
a certain home, the devoted victim made his escape to 
the jungle. The villagers, after an unsuccessful search, 
returned to the temple, and said to the pujari (priest) 
' Kalak Adu,' which has a double meaning, viz., Kalake 
next year, adu he will give, or adu a goat, and thence- 
forth only scapegoats were offered." 

Human sacrifice is considered efficacious in appeasing 
the earth spirit, and in warding off devils during the 
construction of a new railway or big bridge. To the in- 
fluence of such evil spirits the death of several workmen 
by accident in a cutting on the railway, which was under 
construction at Cannanore in Malabar, was attributed. 
A legend is current at Anantapur that, on one occasion, 
the embankment of the big tank breached. Ganga, the 
goddess of water, entered the body of a woman, and 
explained through her that, if some one was thrown into 
the breach, she would cause no further damage. Accord- 
ingly, one Musalamma was thrown in, and buried within 
it. The spot is marked by several margosa {Me/ta 
Azadirachtd) trees, and sheep, fowls, etc., are still 
occasionally offered to the girl who was thus sacrificed. 
When a tank bund (embankment) was under Construction 


in Mysore, there was a panic among the workmen, owing 
to a rumour that three virgins were going to be sacrificed. 
When a mantapam or shrine was consecrated, a human 
sacrifice was formerly considered necessary, but a cocoanut 
is now sometimes used as a substitute. At Kalasapad in 
the Cuddapah district, a missionary told Bishop Whitehead 
that, when a new ward was opened at the mission dis- 
pensary in 1906, none would enter it, because the people 
believed that the first to enter would be offered as a 
sacrifice. Their fears were allayed by a religious service. 
During the building of a tower at the Madras Museum, 
just before the big granite blocks were placed in position, 
the coolies contented themselves with the sacrifice of a 
goat. On the completion of a new building, some castes 
on the west coast sacrifice a fowl or sheep, to drive away 
the devils, which are supposed to haunt it. 

In a field outside a village in South Canara, Mr 
Walhouse noticed a large square marked in lines with 
whitewash on the ground, with magic symbols in the 
corners, and the outline of a human figure rudely drawn 
in the middle. Flowers and boiled rice had been laid 
on leaves round the figure. He was informed that a house 
was to be built on the site marked out, and the figure was 
intended to represent the earth spirit supposed to be dwell- 
ing in the ground (or a human sacrifice?). Without this 
ceremony being performed before the earth was dug up, it 
was believed that there would be no luck about the house.* 

Belief in the efficacy of human sacrifice as a means 
of discovering hidden treasure is widespread. It is 
recorded by Mr Walhouse f that *'one of the native 
notions respecting pandu kuli, or kistvaens, is that men 
of old constructed them for the purpose of hiding treasure. 

* " Ind. Ant.," 1881, x. 366. 
t Ibid,^ 1876, V. 22. 


Hence it is that antiquarians find so many have been 
ransacked. It is also believed that spells were placed 
over them as a guard, the strongest being to bury 
a man alive in the cairn, and bid his ghost protect 
the deposit against any but the proprietor. The ghost 
would conceal the treasure from all strangers, or only 
be compelled to disclose it by a human sacrifice being 

Many beliefs exist with regard to the purpose for 
which the large prehistoric burial jars, such as are found 
in various parts of Southern India, were manufactured. 
In Travancore, some believe that they were made to 
contain the remains of virgins sacrificed by the Rajas 
on the boundaries of their estates, to protect them.* 
According to another idea, the jars were made for the 
purpose of burying alive in them old women who refused 
to die. 

In a note on the Velamas of the Godavari district, 
Mr F. R. Hemingway writes that they admit that they 
always arrange for a Mala (Telugu Pariah) couple to 
marry, before they have a marriage in their own houses, 
and that they provide the necessary funds for the Mala 
marriage. They explain the custom by a story to the 
effect that a Mala once allowed a Velama to sacrifice him 
in order to obtain a hidden treasure, and they say that 
this custom is observed out of gratitude for the discovery 
of the treasure which resulted. The Rev. J. Cain gives 
a similar custom among the Velamas of Bhadrachalam 
in the Godavari district, only in this case it is a Palli 
(fisherman) who has to be married. Some years ago, a 
Native of the west coast, believing that treasure was 
hidden on his property, took council with an astrologer, 
who recommended the performance of a human sacrifice, 
* "Ind. Ant.,-' 1878, vii. 177. 


which happily was averted. On one occasion, a little 
Brahman girl is said to have been decoyed when on 
her way to school, and murdered in the god's room at 
a temple in Vellore, in which treasure was supposed to 
be concealed. 

In 1901, a Native of the Bellary district was tried for 
the murder of his child, in the belief that hidden treasure 
would thereby be revealed to him. The man, whose 
story I heard from himself in the lock-up, had apparently 
implicit faith that the god would bring the child to life 
again. The case, as recorded in the judgment of the 
Sessions Judge, was as follows : — 

**The prisoner has made two long statements to the 
Magistrate, in each of which he explains why he killed 
the child. From these statements it appears that he had 
been worshipping at the temple of Kona Irappa for six 
or seven years, and that, on one or more occasions, the 
god appeared to him, and said : ' I am much pleased 
with your worship. There is wealth under me. To 
whom else should it be given but you ? ' The god asked 
the prisoner to sacrifice sheep and buffaloes, and also 
said : ' Give your son's head. You know that a head 
should be given to the god who confers a boon. I shall 
raise up your son, and give you the wealth which is 
under me.' At that time, the prisoner had only one 
son — the deceased boy was not then born. The prisoner 
said to the god : ' I have only one son. How can I 
give him?' The god replied: *A son will be born. 
Do not fear me. I shall revive the son, and give you 
wealth.' Within one year, the deceased boy was born. 
This increased the prisoner's faith in the god, and it is 
apparent from his own statement that he has for some 
time past been contemplating human sacrifice. He was 
advised not to sacrifice the son, and for a time was 
satisfied with sacrificing a buffalo and goats, but, as a 
result, did not succeed in getting the wealth that he was 


anxious to secure. The prisoner says he dug up some 
portion of the temple, but the temple people did not let 
him dig further. The boy was killed on a Sunday, 
because the prisoner says that the god informed him 
that the human sacrifice should be on the child's birth- 
day, which was a Sunday. The prisoner mentions in his 
statement how he took the child to the temple on the 
Sunday morning, and cut him with a sword. Having 
done so, he proceeded to worship, saying : ' I offered 
a head to the bestower of boons. Give boons, resuscitate 
my son, and show me wealth.' While the prisoner was 
worshipping the god, and waiting for the god to revive 
his son, the Reddi (headman) and the police came to 
the temple, and interrupted the worship. The prisoner 
believes that thereby the god was prevented from reviving 
the son. . . . The facts seem to be clear. The man's 
mind is sound in every respect but as regards this religious 
delusion. On' that point, it is unsound." 

A bad feature of the case, which was reckoned against 
the prisoner, was that he deferred the sacrifice until a 
second son was born, so that, in any case, he was not 
left without male issue. It was laid down by Manu that 
a man is perfect when he consists of three — himself, his 
wife, and his son. In the Rig Veda it is laid down that, 
when a father sees the face of a living son, he pays a 
debt in him, and gains immortality. In Sanskrit works, 
Putra, or son, is defined as one who delivers a parent 
from a hell called put, into which those who have no 
son fall. Hence the anxiety of Hindus to marry, and 
beget male offspring. 

A few years ago, in the Mysore Province, two men 
were charged with the kidnapping and murder of a female 
infant, and one was sentenced to transportation for life. 
The theory of the prosecution was that the child was 
killed, in order that it might be offered as a sacrifice with 


the object of securing hidden treasure, which was believed 
to be buried near the scene of the murder. A witness 
gave evidence to the effect that the second accused was 
the pujari (priest) of a Gangamma temple. He used to 
tell people that there was hidden treasure, and that, if 
a human sacrifice were offered, the treasure might be 
acquired. He used to make puja, and tie yantrams 
(charms). He also made special pujas, and exorcised 
devils. Another witness testified that her mother had 
buried some treasure during her lifetime, and she asked 
the pujari to discover it. He came to her house, made 
an earthen image, and did piija to it. He dug the ground 
in three places, but no treasure was found. In dealing 
with the evidence in the Court of Appeal, the Judges 
stated that '* it is well known that ignorant persons have 
various superstitions about the discovery of hidden treasure, 
and the facts that the second accused either shared such 
superstitious beliefs, or traded on the credulity of his 
neighbours by his pretensions of special occult power, 
and that a Sanyasi (religious mendicant) had some four 
years^ ago given out that treasure might be discovered 
by means of a human sacrifice, cannot justify any infer- 
ence that the second accused would have acted on the 
last suggestion, especially when the witnesses cannot 
even say that the second accused heard the Sanyasi's 

The temple was searched, and the following articles 
were found: — three roots of the banyan tree having 
suralay (coil), a suralay of the banyan tree, round which 
two roots were entwined, a piece of banyan root, and 
a wheel (alada chakra) made of banyan root. Besides, 
there were a copper armlet, copper thyati (charm 
cylinder), nine copper plates, on which letters were 
engraved, a copper mokka mattoo (copper plate bearing 


figures of deities), a piece of thread coloured red, white 
and black, for tying yantrams, a tin case containing 
kappu (a black substance), a ball of human hair, and 
a pen-knife. There was also a dealwood box containing 
books and papers relating to bhuta vidya (black art). 

A man was accused in 1907, in the Kurnool district, 
of stabbing a supposed wizard in the darkest hours of 
a new -moon night. In the course of his judgment, 
the Judge stated that ''what may be taken as the facts 
of the case are very curious. The accused and his elder 
brother saw an 'iguana' (lizard) run from the foot of a 
hill. This is supposed to be one of the signs of buried 
treasure. They killed the animal (and ate it eventually), 
and dug, and found, where it had slept, treasure in the 
shape of a pot full of old-time pagodas (gold coins). Now 
a goddess (called here Shatti, /.<?., Sakti) is supposed to 
guard such buried treasure, and the finder ought to sacrifice 
a cock to the goddess before receiving the treasure. The 
brother of the accused neglected to do so, and came to the 
deceased, who was supposed to be a warlock, though his 
wife represents him to be merely a worshipper of Vira 
Brahma, and a distributor of holy water (thirtham) and 
holy ashes to people possessed with devils. The deceased 
gave holy water to Pedda Pichivadu to avert ill-luck, but 
the man suddenly died from running a thorn into his foot, 
and his leg swelling in consequence. About the same 
time, the accused's younger brother got palsy in his head, 
and the deceased failed to cure him, though he made the 

At Girigehalli in the Anantapur district, there is a 
temple, concerning which the story goes that the stomach 
of the goddess was once opened by an avaricious individual, 
who expected to find treasure within it. The goddess 
appeared to him in a dream, and said that he should 


suffer like pain to that which he had inflicted upon her, 
and he shortly afterwards died of some internal complaint.* 

In the Cuddapah district, many of the inhabitants are 
said f to believe that there is much treasure hidden from 
the troublous days of the eighteenth century, but they 
have a superstitious dread against looking for it, since 
the successful finder would be smitten by the guardian 
demon with a sudden and painful death. 

The Panos (hill weavers) of Ganjam are said, on more 
than one occasion, to have rifled the grave of a European, 
in the belief that buried treasure would be found. 

Many years ago, a woman was supposed to be possessed 
with a devil, and an exorcist was consulted, who declared 
that a human sacrifice was necessary. A victim was 
selected, and made very drunk. His head was cut off, 
and the blood, mixed with rice, was offered to the idol. 
The body was then hacked so as to deceive the police, 
and thrown into a pond.f 

At a village near Berhampur in Ganjam, Mr S. P. 
Rice tells us, § a number of villagers went out together. 
By and bye, according to a preconcerted plan, one of 
the party suggested a drink. The intended victim was 
drugged, and taken along to the statue of the goddess, 
or shrine containing what did duty for the statue. He 
was then thrown down with his face on the ground in an 
attitude suggesting supplication, and, while he was still 
in a state of stupor, his head was chopped off with an axe. 

It is narrated by Chevers || that, in 1840, a religious 
mendicant, on his way back from Ramesvaram, located 
himself in a village near Ramnad, and gave himself out 

* "Gazetteer of the Anantapur District," 1905, i. 179. 

t "Manual of the Cuddapah District," 1875, 284. 

X Lieutenant-General F. F. Burton, "An Indian Olio," 307. 

§ " Occasional Essays on Native South Indian Life," 1901, 72-3. 

il " Manual of Medical Jurisprudence in India," 1870. 


to be gifted with the power of working miracles. One 
evening, the chucklers (leather-workers) of the village, 
observing crows and vultures hovering near a group of 
trees, and suspecting that there was carrion for them to 
feast upon, were tempted to visit the spot, where they 
found a corpse, mangled most fearfully, and with the left 
hand and right leg cut off. Many nails were driven into 
the head, a garland was placed round the neck, and the 
forehead smeared with sandal paste. It was rumoured 
that a certain person was ailing, and that the holy man 
decreed that nothing short of a human sacrifice could 
save him, and that the victim should bear his name. The 
holy man disappeared, but was captured shortly afterwards. 
A copper-plate grant, acquired a few years ago at 
Tirupati, and believed to be a forgery, records that a 
temple car was made for the goddess Kalikadevi of 
Conjeeveram by certain Panchalans (members of the 
artisan classes). While it was being taken to the temple, 
a magician stopped it by means of incantations. The 
help of another magician was sought, and he cut off the 
head of his pregnant daughter, suspended it to the car, 
and performed certain rites. The car then moved, and 
the woman, whose head was cut off, was brought back 
to life. A somewhat similar legend is recorded in another 
copper-plate grant discovered in 1910 in the North Arcot 
district, which is also believed to be a forgery. It is 
there stated that the five castes of artisans made a bell- 
metal car for the Kamakshiamman temple at Conjeeveram. 
Members of these five castes, belonging to the left-hand 
faction, commenced to drag it, but Seniyasingapuli, 
belonging to the right-hand faction, by means of magical 
powers, raised a thousand evil spirits against each wheel, 
and arrested its progress. A woman, named Mangammal, 
offered to sacrifice her son, and the artisans accordingly 


purchased the boy, saying that they would give her a 
head equal to that of a new-born child. Eventually, 
Mangammal herself laid down before the car. Her head 
was cut off, and hung at the top of the car. Her abdomen 
was torn open, and the foetus removed therefrom, and 
dedicated to the evil spirit. The headless trunk was buried 
in the path of the wheels. 



Some of the cases here brought together serve as an 
illustration of the difficulty which frequently arises in 
arriving at a decision as to how far the taking of human 
life is justified as being carried out in accordance with a 
genuine superstitious belief, and when the act renders 
the perpetrator thereof liable to punishment under the 
Indian Penal Code. 

Five persons were charged a few years ago at the 
Coimbatore sessions with the murder of a young woman. 
The theory put forward by the prosecution was that two 
of the accused practised sorcery, and were under the 
delusion that, if they could obtain the foetus from the 
uterus of a woman who was carrying her first child, they 
would be able to work some wonderful spells with it. 
With this object, they entered into a conspiracy with the 
three other accused to murder a young married woman, 
aged about seventeen, who was seven months advanced 
in pregnancy, and brutally murdered her, cutting open 
the uterus, removing the foetus contained therein, and 
stealing her jewels. The five accused persons (three 
men and two women) were all of different castes. Two 
of the men had been jointly practising sorcery for some 
years. It was proved that, about two years before, they 
had performed an incantation near a river with some raw 
beef, doing puja (worship) near the water's edge in a 



state of nature. Evidence was produced to prove that 
two of the accused decamped after the murder with a 
suspicious bundle, a few days before an eclipse of the 
moon, to Tiruchengddu where there is a celebrated temple. 
It was suggested that the bundle contained the uterus, 
and was taken to Tiruchengodu for the purpose of per- 
forming magical rites. When the quarters in which two 
of the accused lived were searched, three palm-leaf books 
were found containing mantrams regarding the pilli 
suniyam, a process of incantation by means of which 
sorcerers are supposed to be able to kill people. The 
record of the case states that *' there can be little doubt 
that the first and fourth accused were taken into the 
conspiracy in order to decoy the deceased. The induce- 
ment offered to them was most probably immense wealth 
by the working of charms by the second and third 
accused with the aid of the foetus. The medical evidence 
showed that the dead woman was pregnant, and that, 
after her throat had been cut, the uterus was taken 

In 1829, several Natives of Malabar were charged with 
having proceeded, in company with a Paraiyan magician, 
to the house of a pregnant woman, who was beaten and 
otherwise ill-treated, and with having taken the foetus out 
of her uterus, and introduced in lieu thereof the skin of 
a calf and an earthen pot. The prisoners confessed before 
the police, but were acquitted mainly on the ground that 
the earthen pot was of a size which rendered it impossible 
to credit its introduction during life. The Paraiyas of 
Malabar and Cochin are celebrated for their magical 
powers, and the practice of odi. 

** There are," Mr Govinda Nambiar writes,* '* certain 
specialists among mantravadis (dealers in magical spells), 
* Indian Review^ May, igcw. 



who are known as Odiyans. Conviction is deep-rooted 
that they have the power of destroying whomever they 
please, and that, by means of a powerful bewitching 
matter called pilla thilum (oil extracted from the body of 
an infant), they are enabled to transform themselves into 
any shape or form, or even to vanish into air, as their 
fancy may suggest. When an Odiyan is hired to cause 
the death of a man, he waits during the night at the gate 
of his intended victim's house, usually in the form of a 
bullock. If, however, the person is inside the house, the 
Odiyan assumes the shape of a cat, enters the house, and 
induces him to come out. He is subsequently knocked 
down and strangled. The Odiyan is also credited with 
the power, by means of certain medicines, of inducing 
sleeping persons to open the doors, and come out of their 
houses as somnambulists do. Pregnant women are some- 
times induced to come out of their houses in this way, and 
they are murdered, and the foetus extracted from them. 
Murder of both sexes by Odiyans was a crime of frequent 
occurrence before the British occupation of the country." 

In a case which was tried at the Malabar Sessions a 
few years ago, several witnesses for the prosecution 
deposed that a certain individual was killed by odi. One 
man gave the following account of the process. Shoot 
the victim in the nape of the neck with a blunt arrow, 
and bring him down. Proceed to beat him systematically 
all over the body with two sticks (resembling a policeman's 
truncheon, and called odivaddi), laying him on his back 
and applying the sticks to his chest, and up and down 
the sides, breaking all the ribs and other bones. Then 
raise the person, and kicks his sides. After this, force 
him to take an oath that he will never divulge the names 
of his torturer. All the witnesses agreed about the blunt 
arrow, and some bore testimony to the sticks. 

A detailed account of the odi cult, from which the 


following information was obtained, is given by Mr 
Anantha Krishna Iyer.* The disciple is taught how to 
procure pilla thilum (foetus oil) from the six or seven 
months foetus of a young woman in her first pregnancy. 
He (the Paraiyan magician) sets out at midnight from his 
hut to the house of the woman he has selected, round 
which he walks several times, shaking a cocoanut con- 
taining gurasi (a compound of water, lime, and turmeric), 
and muttering some mantrams to invoke the aid of his 
deity. He also draws a yantram (cabalistic figure) on the 
earth, taking special care to observe the omens as he 
starts. Should they be unfavourable, he puts it off for a 
more favourable opportunity. By the potency of his cult, 
the woman is made to come out. Even if the door of the 
room in which she might sleep be under lock and key, 
she would knock her head against it until she found her 
way out. She thus comes out, and yields herself to the 
influence of the magician, who leads her to a retired spot 
either in the compound (grounds), or elsewhere in the 
neighbourhood, strips her naked, and tells her to lie fiat. 
She does so, and a chora kindi (gourd, Lagenarid) is 
placed close to the uterus. The foetus comes out in a 
moment. A few leaves of some plant are applied, and 
the uterus contracts. Sometimes the womb is filled with 
rubbish, and the woman instantly dies. Care is taken that 
the foetus does not touch the ground, lest the purpose be 
defeated, and the efficacy of the medicine completely lost. 
It is cut into pieces, dried, and afterwards exposed to the 
smoke above a fireplace. It is then placed in a vessel 
provided with a hole or two, below which there is another 
vessel. The two together are placed in a larger vessel 
filled with water, and heated over a bright fire. The heat 
must be so intense as to affect the foetus, from which a 
* "The Cochin Tribes and Castes," Madras, 1909, i. 77-81. 


kind of liquid drops, and collects in the second vessel in an 
hour and a half. The magician then takes a human skull, 
and reduces it to a fine powder. This is mixed with a 
portion of the liquid. A mark is made on the forehead 
with this mixture, and the oil is rubbed on certain parts of 
the body, and he drinks some cow-dung water. He then 
thinks that he can assume the figure of any animal he likes, 
and successfully achieves the object in view, which is 
generally to murder or maim a person. A magic oil, 
called angola thilum, is extracted from the angola tree 
{Alangiutn Lamarckii), which bears a very large number of 
fruits. One of these is believed to be capable of descend- 
ing and returning to its position on dark nights. Its 
possession can be secured by demons, or by an expert 
watching at the foot of the tree. When it has been 
secured, the extraction of the oil involves the same opera- 
tions as those for extracting the pilla thilum, and they 
must be carried out within seven hours. The odi cult is 
said to have been practised by the Paraiyas some twenty 
years ago to a very large extent in the rural parts of the 
northern division of the Cochin State, and in the taluks of 
Palghat and Valuvanad, and even now it has not quite 
died out. Cases of extracting the foetus, and of putting 
persons to death by odi, are not now heard of owing to 
the fear of government officials, landlords, and others. 

Of the odi cult as practised by the Panan magicians of 
the Cochin State, the following account is given by Mr 
Anantha Krishna Iyer.* 

"A Panan, who is an adept in the black art, dresses in 
an unwashed cloth, and performs puja to his deity, after 
which he goes in search of a kotuveli plant {Plumbago 
zeylanicd). When he has found it, he goes round it three 
times every day, and continues to do so for ninety days, 
* "The Cochin Tribes and Castes," Madras, i. 176-7. 


prostrating himself every day before it, and on the last 
night, which must be a new moon night, at midnight, he 
performs puja to the plant, burning camphor and 
frankincense, and, after going round it three times, 
prostrates himself before it. He then thrusts three small 
candles on it, and advances twenty paces in front of it. 
With his mouth closed, he plucks the root, and buries it in 
the ashes on the cremation ground, after which he pours 
the water of seven green cocoanuts on it. He then goes 
round it twenty-one times, uttering all the while certain 
mantrams. This being over, he plunges himself in water, 
and stands erect until it extends to his mouth. He takes a 
mouthful of water which he empties on the spot, and takes 
the plant with the root which he believes to possess 
peculiar virtues. When it is taken to the closed door of a 
house, it has the power to entice a pregnant woman, and 
cause her to come out, when the foetus is removed. It is 
all secretly done at midnight. The head, hands, and legs 
are cut off, and the trunk is taken to a dark-coloured rock, 
on which it is cut into nine pieces, which are burned until 
they are blackened. At this stage one piece boils, and it 
is placed in a new earthen pot, to which is added the water 
of nine green cocoanuts. The pot is removed to the burial 
ground, where the Panan performs a puja in honour of his 
favourite deity. He fixes two poles deep in the earth, at a 
distance of thirty feet from each other. The two poles are 
connected by a strong wire, from which is suspended the 
pot to be heated and boiled. Seven fireplaces are made 
beneath the wire, over the middle of which is the pot. 
The branches of bamboo, katalati {Achyrantkes aspera), 
conga {Baukinia variegata)^ cocoanut palm, jack tree 
{Artocarpus integrifolia)^ and pavatta {Pavetta indicd)^ are 
used in forming a bright fire. The mixture in the pot 
soon boils and becomes oily, at which stage it is passed 
through a fine cloth. The oil is preserved, and a mark 
made with it on the forehead enables the possessor to 
realise anything which is thought of. The sorcerer must 
be in a state of vow for twenty-one days, and live on a diet 


of chama kanji (gruel). The deity whose aid is necessary- 
is also propitiated by offerings." 

In 1908, the following case, relating to the birth of 
a monster, was tried before the Sessions Judge of South 
Canara. A young Cauda girl became pregnant by her 
brother-in-law. After three days' labour, the child was 
born. The accused, who was the mother of the girl, was 
the midwife. Finding the delivery very difficult, she sent 
for a person to come and help her. The child was, as 
they thought, still-born. On its head was a red pro- 
tuberance like a ball ; round each of its forearms were 
two or three red bands ; the eyes and ears were fixed 
very high in the head ; and the eyes, nose, and mouth 
were abnormally large. The mother was carried out of 
the outhouse, lest the devil child should do her harm, 
or kill her. The accused summoned a Muhammadan, 
who was in the yard. He came in, and she showed him 
the child, and asked him to call the neighbours, to decide 
what to do. The child, she said, was a devil child, and 
must be cut and killed, lest it should devour the mother. 
While they were looking at the child, it began to move 
and roll its eyes about, and turn on the ground. It is 
a belief of the villagers that such a devil child, when 
brought in contact with the air, rapidly grows, and causes 
great trouble, usually killing the mother, and sometimes 
killing all the inmates of the house. The accused told 
the Muhammadan to cover the child with a vessel, which 
he did. Then there was a sound from inside the vessel, 
either of the child moving, or making a sound with 
its mouth. The accused then put her hand under the 
vessel, dragged the child half-way out, and, while the 
Muhammadan pressed the edge of the vessel on the 
abdomen of the child, took a knife, and cut the body in 


half. When the body was cut in two, there was no blood, 
but a mossy-green or black liquid oozed out. The accused 
got two areca leaves, and put one piece of the child on 
one, and one on the other, and told the Muhammadan 
to get a spade, and bury them. So they went to the 
jungle close to the house, and the Muhammadan dug 
two holes, one on one hillock, and one on another. In 
these holes, the two pieces of the child were buried. The 
object of this was to prevent the two pieces joining 
together again, in which case the united devil child would 
have come out of the grave, and gone to kill the mother. 

Years ago, it was not unusual for people to come long 
distances for the purpose of engaging Paniyans of the 
Wynad (in Malabar) to help them in carrying out some 
more than usually desperate robbery or murder. Their 
mode of procedure, when engaged in an enterprise of 
this sort, is evidenced by two cases, which had in them 
a strong element of savagery. On both these occasions, 
the thatched homesteads were surrounded at dead of 
night by gangs of Paniyans carrying large bundles of 
rice straw. After carefully piling up the straw on all 
sides of the building marked for destruction, torches were 
at a given signal applied, and those of the inmates who 
attempted to escape were knocked on the head with clubs, 
and thrust into the fiery furnace. In 1904, some Paniyans 
were employed by a Mappilla (Muhammadan) to murder 
his mistress, who was pregnant, and threatened that she 
would noise abroad his responsibility for her condition. 
He brooded over the matter, and one day, meeting a 
Paniyan, promised him ten rupees if he would kill the 
woman. The Paniyan agreed to commit the crime, and 
went with his brothers to a place on a hill, where the 
Mappilla and the woman were in the habit of gratifying 
their passions. Thither the man and woman followed 


the Paniyans, of whom one ran out, and struck the 
victim on the head with a chopper. She was then gagged 
with a cloth, carried some distance, and killed. 

In 1834, the inhabitants of several villages in Malabar 
attacked a village of Paraiyans on the alleged ground 
that deaths of people and cattle, and the protracted labour 
of a woman in childbed, had been caused by the practice 
of sorcery by the Paraiyans. They were beaten inhumanely 
with their hands tied behind their backs, so that several 
died. The villagers were driven, bound, into a river, 
immersed under water so as nearly to produce suffocation, 
and their own children were forced to rub sand into their 
wounds. Their settlement was then razed to the ground, 
and they were driven into banishment. 

The Kadirs of the Anaimalais are believers in witch- 
craft, and attribute diseases to the working thereof. They 
are expert exorcists, and trade in mantravadam or magic. 
It is recorded by Mr Logan * that "the family of famous 
trackers, whose services in the jungles were retained 
for H.R.H. the Prince of Wales's (afterwards King 
Edward VII.) projected sporting tour in the Anamalai 
mountains, dropped off most mysteriously one by one, 
stricken down by an unseen hand, and all of them 
expressing beforehand their conviction that they were 
under a certain individual's spell, and were doomed to 
certain death at an early date. They were probably 
poisoned, but how it was managed remains a mystery, 
although the family was under the protection of a 
European gentleman, who would at once have brought 
to light any ostensible foul play." 

The Badagas of the Nilgiris live in dread of the jungle 
Kurumbas, who constantly come under reference in their 
folk-stories. The Kurumba is the necromancer of the hills, 
* "Malabar," 1887,!. 174- 


and believed to be possessed of the power of outraging 
women, removing their livers, and so causing their death, 
while the wound heals by magic, so that no trace of the 
operation is left. The Badaga's dread of the Kurumba is 
said to be so great, that a simple threat of vengeance has 
proved fatal. The Badaga or Toda requires the services 
of the Kurumba, when he fancies that any member of his 
family is possessed by a devil. The Kurumba does his 
best to remove the malady by means of mantrams (magical 
formulce). If he fails, and if any suspicion is aroused in 
the mind of the Badaga or Toda that he is allowing the 
devil to play his pranks instead of loosing his hold on 
the supposed victim, woe betide him. Writing in 1832, 
Harkness states* that '' a very few years before, a Burgher 
(Badaga) had been hanged by the sentence of the pro- 
vincial court for the murder of a Kurumba. The act 
of the former was not without what was considered great 
provocation. Disease had attacked the inhabitants of the 
hamlet, a murrain their cattle. The former had carried 
off a great part of the family of the murderer, and he 
himself had but narrowly escaped its effects. No one 
in the neighbourhood doubted that the Kurumba in 
question had, by his necromancy, caused all this mis- 
fortune, and, after several fruitless attempts, a party of 
them succeeded in surrounding him in open day, and 
effecting their purpose." 

In 1835, no less than fifty -eight Kurumbas were 
murdered, and a smaller number in 1875 and 1882. In 
1891, the inmates of a single Kurumba hut were said to have 
been murdered, and the hut burnt to ashes, because one 
of the family had been treating a sick Badaga child, and 
failed to cure it. The district judge, however, disbelieved 

* "Description of a Singular Aboriginal Race inhabiting the summit 
of the Neilgherry Hills," 1832, 83-4. 


the evidence, and all who were charged were acquitted. 
Again, in 1900, a whole family of Kurumbas was 
murdered, of which the head, who had a reputation as a 
medicine man, was believed to have brought disease and 
death into a Badaga village. The sympathies of the whole 
countryside were so strongly with the murderers that 
detection was made very difficult, and the persons charged 
were acquitted.* 

" It is," Mr Grigg writes,t "a curious fact that neither 
Kota, Irula, or Badaga, will slay a Kurumba, until a Toda 
has struck the first blow, but, as soon as his sanctity has 
been violated by a blow, they hasten to complete the 
murderous work, which the sacred hand of the Toda has 

Some years ago, a Toda was found dead in a sitting 
posture on the top of a hill near a Badaga village, in which 
a party of Todas had gone to collect the tribute due to 
them. The body was cremated, and a report made to the 
police that the man had been murdered. On enquiry, it 
was ascertained that the dead man was supposed to have 
bewitched a little Badaga girl, who died in consequence, 
and the presumption was that he had been murdered by 
the Badagas out of spite. 

In 1906, two men were found guilty of killing a man 
by shooting him with a gun in South Canara. It is 
recorded in the judgment that "the accused have a 
brother, who has been ill for a long time. They thought 
deceased, who was an astrologer and mantravadi, had be- 
witched him. They had spent fifty or sixty rupees on 
deceased for his treatment, but it did no good, and 
accused came to believe that deceased not only would 
not cure their brother himself, but would not allow 

* " Madras Police Administration Report," 1900. 
t "Manual of the Niliglri District," 1880, 212. 


other doctors to do so. Also, a certain theft having occurred 
some months ago, deceased professed by his magic arts to 
have discovered that accused and others were the thieves. 
In consequence of these things, accused had expressed 
various threats against deceased. One witness, who is a 
mantravadi in a small way, was consulted by one of the 
accused to find some counter -treatment for deceased's 
bewitchment. Accused said that deceased refused to cure 
their brother, and would not let others do so, unless they 
gave him certain gold coins called Rama Tanka, said to 
be in their possession. They desired this possession, so 
would not satisfy deceased. So their brother was dying 
by inches under deceased's malign influence. This witness 
professed to have discovered that accused's brother was 
being worried by one black devil and two malignant spirits 
of the dead. It is clear from the evidence that accused, 
who are ignorant men of a low type, really believed that 
deceased was by his magic wilfully and slowly killing 
their brother. They believed that the only way to save 
their brother's life was to kill the magician." 

During an epidemic of smallpox in the Jeypore hill 
tracts, a man lost his wife and child. A local subscription 
had been organised for a sorcerer, on the understanding 
that he was to stay the course of the epidemic. The 
bereaved man charged him with being a fraud, and, in the 
course of a quarrel, split his skull open with a tangi (axe). 

In 1906, a Komati woman died of cholera in a village 
in Ganjam. Her son sought the assistance of certain men 
of the ^'Reddika" caste in obtaining wood for the pyre, 
carrying the corpse to the burning-ground, and cremating 
it. The son set fire to the pyre, and withdrew, leaving the 
Reddikas on the spot. Among them was one, who is said 
to have learnt sorcery from a Bairagi (religious mendicant), 
and to have been generally feared and hated in the village. 


To him the spread of cholera by letting loose the goddess 
of the cremation - ground, called Mashani Chendi, was 
attributed. Arrack (liquor) was passed round among those 
who were attending to the burning corpse, and they got 
more or less drunk. Two of them killed the sorcerer by 
severe blows on the neck with wood - choppers. His 
corpse was then placed on the burning pyre of the Komati 
woman, and cremated. The men who delivered the death 
blows were sentenced to transportation for life, as their 
intoxicated state and superstitious feeling were held to 
plead in mitigation of the punishment. 

In 1904 a case illustrating the prevailing belief in 
witchcraft occurred in the Vizagapatam hill tracts. The 
youngest of three brothers died of fever, and, when the 
body was cremated, the fire failed to consume the upper 
portion. The brothers concluded that death must have 
been caused by the witchcraft of a certain Kondh. They 
accordingly attacked him, and killed him. After death, 
the brothers cut the body in half and dragged the upper 
half of it to their own village, where they attempted to 
nail it up on the spot where their deceased brother's body 
failed to burn. They were arrested on the spot, with the 
fragment of the Kondh's corpse. They were sentenced to 

In the North Arcot district, a few years ago, a reputed 
magician, while collecting the pieces of a burning corpse, 
to be used for the purposes of sorcery, was seized and 
murdered, and his body cast on the burning pyre. From 
the recovery of duplicate bones, it was proved that two 
bodies were burnt, and the murder was detected. Two 
persons were sentenced to transportation for life.f 

* " Madras Police Administration Report," 1904. 
f Ibid.^ 1905-6. 




It has been stated* that sorcerers usually unite together 
to form a society, which may attain great influence among 
backward races. In Southern India there are certain 
castes which are summed up in the '' Madras Census 
Report," 1901, as ''exorcists and devil - dancers," whose 
most important avocation is the practice of magic. Such, 
for example, are the Nalkes, Paravas, and Pompadas of 
South Canara, who are called in whenever a bhutha 
(demon) is to be propitiated, and the Panans and Malayans 
of Malabar, whose magical rites are described by me in 
detail elsewhere.f 

Concerning sorcery on the west coast, the Travancore 
Census Commissioner, 1901, writes as follows: — 

" The forms of sorcery familiar to the people of Malabar 
are of three kinds: — (i) kaivisham, or poisoning food 
by incantations ; (2) the employment of Kuttichattan, a 
mysteriously - working mischievous imp ; (3) setting up 
spirits to haunt men and their houses, and cause illness 
of all kinds. The most mischievous imp in Malabar 
demonology is an annoying quip -loving little spirit, as 
black as night, and about the size of a well-nourished 
twelve-year-old boy. Some people say that they have seen 

* A. C. Haddon, " Magic and Fetishism " (Religions, ancient and 
modern), 1906, 51. 

t See the articles devoted to these castes in my *' Castes and Tribes 
of Southern India," 1909. 



him vis-h-vis^ having a forelock. There are Nambutiris 
(Brahmans) in Malabar to whom these are so many missiles, 
which they may throw at anybody they choose. They are, 
like Shakespeare's Ariel, little active bodies, and most 
willing slaves of the master under whom they happen to 
be placed. Their victims suffer from unbearable agony. 
Their clothes take fire ; their food turns to ordure ; their 
beverages become urine ; stones fall in showers on all 
sides of them, but curiously not on them ; and their bed 
becomes a bed of thorns. With all this annoying mischief, 
Kuttichattan or Boy Satan does no serious harm. He 
oppresses and harasses, but never injures. A celebrated 
Brahman of Changanacheri is said to own more than a 
hundred of these Chattans. Household articles and 
jewelry of value may be left in the premises of homes 
guarded by Chattan, and no thief dares to lay his hand 
on them. The invisible sentry keeps diligent watch over 
his master's property, and has unchecked powers of move- 
ment in any medium. As remuneration for all these 
services, the Chattan demands nothing but food, but 
that in a large measure. If starved, the Chattans would 
not hesitate to remind the master of their power, but, 
if ordinarily cared for, they would be his most willing 
drudges. As a safeguard against the infinite power 
secured for the master by Kuttichattan, it is laid down 
that malign acts committed through his instrumentality 
recoil on the prompter, who dies either childless or after 
frightful physical and mental agony. Another method 
of oppressing humanity, believed to be in the power of 
sorcerers, is to make men and women possessed with 
spirits. Here, too, women are more subject to their evil 
influence than men. Delayed puberty, permanent sterility, 
and still-births, are not uncommon ills of a devil-possessed 
woman. Sometimes the spirits sought to be exorcised 
refuse to leave the victim, unless the sorcerer promises 
them a habitation in his own compound (grounds), and 
arranges for daily offerings being given. This is agreed 
to as a matter of unavoidable necessity, and money and 


lands are conferred upon the mantravadi Nambutiri to 
enable him to fulfil his promise." 

Reference has been made (p. 238) to the falling of stones 
round those attacked by Chattans. Hysteria, epilepsy, and 
other disorders, are, in Malabar, ascribed to possession 
by devils, who can also cause cattle disease, accidents, 
and misfortunes of any kind. Throwing stones on houses, 
and setting fire to the thatch, are supposed to be their 
ordinary recreations. The mere mention of the name of 
a certain Nambutiri family is said to be enough to drive 
them away.* A few years ago, an old Brahman woman, 
in the Bellary district, complained to the police that a 
Sudra woman living in her neighbourhood, and formerly 
employed by her as sweeper, had been throwing stones 
into her house for some nights. The woman admitted that 
she had done so, because she was advised by a Lingayat 
priest that the remedy for intermittent fever, from which 
she was suffering, was to throw stones at an old woman, 
and extract some blood from her body on a new or full- 
moon day. 

Some demons are believed to have human mistresses 
and concubines, and it is narrated f that a Chetti 
(merchant) in the Tamil country purchased a Malabar 
demon from a magician for ninety rupees. But hardly 
a day had passed before the undutiful spirit fell in love 
with its new owner's wife, and succeeded in its nefarious 

Quite recently a woman, in order to win the affection 
of her husband, gave him a love-charm composed of 
dhatura in chutney. The dose proved fatal, and she was 
sentenced to two years' rigorous imprisonment. J A 

* B. Govinda Nambiar, Indian Review, May, 1900. 

t M. J. Walhouse, " Ind. Ant.," 1876, v. 22. 

X "Report of the Chemical Examiner, Madras,'" 1908, 5. 


love-philtre, said to be composed of the charred remains 
of a mouse and spider, was once sent to the chemical 
examiner to Government for analysis in a suspected 
case of poisoning. In connection with the dugong 
{Halicore dugong)^ which is caught in the Gulf of Manaar, 
Dr Annandale writes as follows * : — 

*'The presence of large glands in connection with the 
eye afford some justification for the Malay's belief that 
the dugong weeps when captured. They regard the tears 
of the Ikan dugong (dugong fish) as a powerful love- 
charm. Muhammadan fishermen of the Gulf of Manaar 
appeared to be ignorant of this usage, but told me that 
a ' doctor ' once went out with them to collect the tears 
of a dugong, should they capture one." 

Native physicians in the Tamil country are said to 
prepare an unguent, into the composition of which the 
eye of the slender Loris {Loris gracilis)^ the brain of the 
dead offspring of a primipara, and the catamenial blood 
of a young virgin, enter, as an effective preparation in 
necromancy. The eye of the Loris is also used for making 
a preparation, which is believed to enable the possessor 
to kidnap and seduce women. The tail of a chamaeleon, 
secured on a Sunday, is also believed to be an excellent 

A young married student at a college in Madras 

attributed his illness to the administration by his wife 

of a love-philtre containing the brains of a baby which 

had been exhumed after burial. Among the Tamil 

Paraiyans and some other classes, a first-born child, if 

it is a male, is buried near or even within the house, so 

that its corpse may not be carried away by a sorcerer, 

to be used in magical rites. f If a first-born child dies, 

* Journ. and Pro c. Asiat. Soc, Bengal, 1905, i. No. 9. 

t Rev. A. C. Clayton, Madras Museum Bull., 1906, v., No. 2, 82. 


a finger is sometimes cut off, lest a sorcerer should dig 
up the body, and extract an essence (karuvu) from the 
brain, wherewith to harm his enemies.* The Rev. J. 
Castets informs me that he once saw a man being initiated 
into the mysteries of the magician's art. The apparatus 
included the top of the skull of a first-born male child 
inscribed with Tamil characters. 

A station-house police officer informed Mr S. G. 
Roberts that first-born children, dying in infancy, are 
buried near the house, lest their heads should be used 
in sorcery, a sort of ink or decoction (mai) being distilled 
from them. This ink is used for killing people at a 
distance, or for winning a woman's love, or the con- 
fidence of those from whom some favour is required. 
In the last two cases, the ink is smeared over the eye- 
brows. It is believed that, if an infant's head is used 
for this purpose, the mother will never have a living 
child. When Mr Roberts was at Salem, he had to try 
a case of this practice, and the Public Prosecutor in- 
formed him that it is believed that, if a hole is made in 
the top of the head of the infant when it is buried, it 
cannot be effectively used in sorcery. In the Trichinopoly 
district, the police brought to Mr Roberts' notice a 
sorcerer's outfit, which had been seized. There were the 
most frightful Tamil curses invoking devils, written back- 
wards in 'Mooking-glass characters" on an olai (strip of 
palm leaf), and a looking-glass to read them by. Spells 
written backwards are said to be very potent. There 
was also a small round tin, containing a black treacly 
paste with a sort of shine on it, which was said to have 
been obtained from the head of a dead child. There 
is a Tamil proverb " Kuzhi pillai, madi pillai," meaning 
grave child, lap child, in reference to a belief that, the 
* Cf. odi cult, 228-9. 



quicker a first-born child is buried, the quicker is the 
next child conceived. 

The following form of sorcery in Malabar is described 
by Mr Walhouse.* 

** Let a sorcerer obtain the corpse of a maiden, and on 
a Saturday night place it at the foot of a bhuta-haunted 
tree on an altar, and repeat a hundred times : Cm ! 
Hrim ! Hrom ! O goddess of Malayala who possessest 
us in a moment ! Come ! Come ! The corpse will then 
be inspired by a demon, and rise up ; and, if the demon 
be appeased with flesh and arrack (liquor), it will answer 
all questions put to it." 

A human bone from a burial-ground, over which 
powerful mantrams have been recited, if thrown into an 
enemy's house, will cause his ruin. Ashes from the burial- 
ground on which an ass has been rolling on a Saturday 
or Sunday, if thrown into the house of an enemy, are said 
to produce severe illness, if the house is not vacated. 

From Malabar, a correspondent writes as follows : — 

"I came across a funny thing in an embankment in 
a rice-field. The tender part of a young cocoanut branch 
had been cut into three strips, and the strips fastened 
one into the other in the form of a triangle. At the 
apex a reed was stuck, and along the base and sides 
small flowers, so that the thing looked like a ship in 
full sail. My inspector informed me, with many blushes, 
that it contained a devil, which the sorcerer of a neighbour- 
ing village had cut out of a young girl. Mrs Bishop, 
in her book on Korea, mentions that the Koreans do 
exactly the same thing, but, in Korea, the devil's prison 
is laid by the wayside, and is carefully stepped over by 
every passer-by, whereas the one I saw was carefully 
avoided by my peons (orderlies) and others." 

In the Godavari district, Mr H. Tyler came across the 

*"Ind. Ant," 1876, V. 22. 


burning funeral pyre of a Koyi girl, who had died of 
syphilis. Across a neighbouring path leading to the 
Koyi village was a basket fish-trap containing grass, and 
on each side thorny twigs, which were intended to catch 
the malign spirit of the dead girl, and prevent it from 
entering the village. The twigs and trap containing the 
spirit were to be burnt on the following day. By the 
Dombs of Vizagapatam, the souls of the dead are believed 
to roam about, so as to cause all possible harm to mankind, 
and also to protect them against the attacks of witches. 
A place is prepared for the Duma in the door-hinge, or a 
fishing-net, wherein he lives, is placed over the door. 
The witches must count all the knots of the net, before 
they can enter the house.* 

At cross-roads in the Bellary district, geometric patterns 
are sometimes made at night by people suffering from 
disease, in the belief that the affliction will pass to the 
person who first treads on the charm, f 

** At cross-roads in the South Arcot district may be 
sometimes seen pieces of broken pot, saffron (turmeric), 
etc. These are traces of the following method of getting 
rid of an obstinate disease. A new pot is washed clean, 
and filled with a number of objects (the prescription differs 
in different localities), such as turmeric, coloured grains 
of rice, chillies, cotton-seed, and so forth, and sometimes 
a light made of a few threads dipped in a little dish of 
oil, and taken at dead of night to the cross-roads, and 
broken there. The disease will then disappear. In some 
places it is believed that it passes to the first person who 
sees the debris of the ceremony the next morning, and the 
performer has to be careful to carry it out unknown to his 
neighbours, or the consequences are unpleasant for him." X 

* Gloyer, jeypore, Breklnm, 1901. 

t "Gazetteer of the Bellary District," 1904, i. 60. 

; " Gazetteer of the South Arcot District," 1906, i. 93. 


Some Valaiyans, Paraiyans, and Kalians, on the 
occasion of a death in the family, place a pot filled with 
dung or water, a broomstick, and a firebrand, at some 
place where three roads meet, or in front of the house, 
to prevent the ghost from returning.* When a Paraiyan 
man dies, camphor is burnt, not at the house, but at the 
junction of three lanes. 

In the Godavari district, a sorcerer known as the 
Ejjugadu (male physician) is believed, out of spite or in 
return for payment, to kill another by invoking the gods. 
He goes to a green tree, and there spreads muggu or 
chunam (lime) powder, and places an effigy of the intended 
victim thereon. He also places a bow and arrow there, 
recites certain spells, and calls on the gods. The victim 
is said to die in a couple of days. But, if he understands 
that the Ejjugadu has thus invoked the gods, he may 
inform another Ejjugadu, who will carry out similar 
operations under another tree. His bow and arrow will 
go to those of the first Ejjugadu, and the two bows and 
arrows will fight as long as the spell remains. The man 
will then be safe. 

Writing concerning the nomad Yerukalas, Mr F. 

Fawcett saysf that "the warlock takes the possessed one 

by night to the outskirts of the village, and makes a figure 

on the ground with powdered rice, powders of various 

colours, and powdered charcoal. Balls of the powders, half 

cocoanut shells, betel, four-anna pieces, and oil lamps, are 

placed on the hands, legs, and abdomen. A little heap of 

boiled rice is placed near the feet, and curds and vegetables 

are set on the top of it, with limes placed here and there. 

The subject of the incantation sits near the head, while 

the magician mutters mantrams. A he -goat is then 

* " Gazetteer of the Tanjore District," 1906, i. 76. 
I Journ. Anthrop. Soc, Bombay^ ii. 1890, 282-5. 


sacrificed. Its head is placed near the foot of the figure, 
and benzoin and camphor are waved. A little grain is 
scattered about the figure to appease the evil spirits. 
Some arrack is poured into a cup, which is placed on the 
body of the figure, and the bottle which contained it is 
left on the head. The limes are cut in two, and two 
cocoanuts are broken. The patient then walks by the 
left side of the figure to its legs, takes one step to the 
right towards the head, and one step to the left towards 
the feet, and walks straight home without looking back." 

In Malabar, Mr Govinda Nambiar writes,* ''when 
a village doctor attending a sick person finds that 
the malady is unknown to him, or will not yield to his 
remedies, he calls in the astrologer, and subsequently the 
exorcist, to expel the demon or demons which have 
possessed the sick man. If the devils will not yield to 
ordinary remedies administered by his disciples, the 
mantravadi himself comes, and a devil dance is appointed 
to be held on a certain day. Thereat various figures of 
mystic device are traced on the ground, and in their 
midst a huge and frightful form representing the demon. 
Sometimes an effigy is constructed out of cooked and 
coloured rice. The patient is seated near the head of the 
figure, and opposite sits the magician adorned with 
bundles of sticks tied over the joints of his body, tails, 
and skins of animals, etc. Verses are chanted, and some- 
times cocks are sacrificed, and the blood is sprinkled on 
the demon's effigy. Amidst the beating of drums and 
blowing of pipes, the magician enters upon his diabolical 
dance, and, in the midst of his paroxysm, may even bite 
live cocks, and suck with ferocity the hot blood." 

When a Malayan exorcist is engaged in propitiating 
a demon, a fowl is sometimes waved before him, and 
* Indian Review^ May, 1900. 


decapitated. He puts the neck in his mouth, and sucks 
the blood. By the Tiyans of Malabar a number of evil 
spirits are supposed to devote their attention to a pregnant 
woman, and to suck the blood of the child in uiero, and 
of the mother. In the process of expelling them, the 
woman lies on the ground and kicks. A cock is thrust 
into her hand, and she bites it, and drinks its blood. 

It is noted by Mr L. K. Anantha Krishna Iyer 
that by the Thanda Pulayans of the west coast " a 
ceremony called urasikotukkuka is performed with the 
object of getting rid of a devil, with which a person is 
possessed. At a place far distant from the hut, a leaf, on 
which the blood of a fowl has been made to fall, is spread 
on the ground. On a smaller leaf, chunam and turmeric 
are placed. The person who first sets eyes on these becomes 
possessed by the devil, and sets free the individual who 
was previously under its influence. The Thanda Pulayans 
also practise maranakriyas, or sacrifices to demons, to 
bring about the death of an enemy. Sometimes affliction 
is supposed to be brought about by the enmity of those 
who have got incantations written on a palm leaf, and 
buried in the ground near a house by the side of a well. 
A sorcerer is called in to counteract the evil charm, which 
he digs up and destroys." 

In a note on the Paraiyas of Travancore,* the Rev. S. 
Mateer writes that Sudras and Shanars f frequently 
employ the Paraiya devil-dancers and sorcerers to search 
for and dig out magical charms buried in the earth by 
enemies, and counteract their enchantments. 

A form of sorcery in Malabar called marana (destruc- 

* Journ. Royal Asiat. Soc, 1884, xvi. 185-6. 

t For a detailed account of demon olatry among the Shanans, I would 
refer the reader to the Rev. R. (afterwards Bishop) Caldwell's now 
scarce "Tinnevelly Shanans," 1849. 


tion) is said by Mr Fawcett* to be carried out in the 
following manner : — 

"A figure representing the enemy to be destroyed is 
drawn on a small plate of metal (gold by preference), and 
to it some mystic diagrams are added. It is then 
addressed with a statement that bodily injury, or the death 
of the person, shall take place at a certain time. This little 
sheet is wrapped up in another metal sheet or leaf (of gold 
if possible), and buried in some place which the person to 
be injured or destroyed is in the habit of passing. Should 
he pass over the place, it is supposed that the charm will 
take effect at the time named." 

One favourite tantra of the South Indian sorcerer is saidf 
to consist of ** what is popularly known in Tamil as pavai, 
that is to say, a doll made of some plastic substance, such as 
clay or wheat-flour. A crude representation of the intended 
victim is obtained by moulding a quantity of the material, 
and a nail or pin is driven into it at a spot corresponding 
to the limb or organ that is intended to be affected. J For 
instance, if there is to be paralysis of the right arm, the 
pin is stuck into the right arm of the image ; if madness is 
to result, it is driven into the head, and so on, appropriate 
mantras being chanted over the image, which is buried at 
midnight in a neighbouring cremation ground. So long 
as the pavai is underground, the victim will grow from bad 
to worse, and may finally succumb, if steps are not taken 
in time. Sometimes, instead of a doll being used, the 
corpse of a child recently buried is dug out of the ground, 
and re-interred after being similarly treated. The only 
remedy consists in another sorcerer being called in for 
the purpose of digging out the pavai. Various are the 

* Madras Museum Bull., 1900, iii., No. i, 51. 
t Madras Mail, i8th November, 1905. 

X An example of so-called homoeopathic magic. See Haddon, " Magic 
and Fetishism" (Religions ancient and modern), 1906, 19-22. 


methods he adopts for discovering the place where the doll 
is buried, one of them being very similiar to what is known 
as crystal-gazing. A small quantity of a specially prepared 
thick black fluid is placed on the palm of a third person, 
and the magician professes to find out every circumstance 
connected with the case of his client's mental or physical 
condition by attentively looking at it. The place of the 
doll's burial is spotted with remarkable precision, the nail 
or pin extracted, and the patient is restored to his normal 
condition as by a miracle." 

The following form of sorcery resorted to in Malabar in 
compassing the discomfiture of an enemy is recorded by 
Mr Walhouse.* 

*' Make an image of wax in the form of your enemy ; 
take it in your right hand at night, and hold your chain of 
beads in your left hand. Then burn the image with due 
rites, and it shall slay your enemy in a fortnight. Or a 
figure representing an enemy, with his name and date of 
his birth inscribed on it, is carved out of Strychnos Nux- 
vomica wood. A mantram is recited, a fowl offered up, and 
the figure buried in glowing rice-husk embers. Or, again, 
some earth from a spot where an enemy has urinated, 
saliva expectorated by him, and a small tuft of hair, are 
placed inside a tender cocoanut, and enclosed in a piece of 
Strychiios Nux-vomica. The cocoanut is pierced with 
twenty-one nails and buried, and a fowl sacrificed." 

A police inspector, when visiting a village a few years 
ago, was told by one of the villagers that a man was going 
to bury two wax dolls, in order to cause his death. The 
inspector accordingly went to the house of the suspected 
enemy, where he found the two dolls, and some books on 

The Natrve servant of a friend in Madras found buried 
* " Ind. Ant." 1876, v. ?2. 



To race p 24(1. 


in a corner of his master's garden the image of a human 
figure, which had been deposited there by an enemy who 
wished to injure him. The figure was made of flour, 
mixed with "walking foot earth," i.e., earth from the 
ground, which the servant had walked over. Nails, 
fourteen in number, had been driven into the head, neck, 
and each shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee, and ankle. 
Buried with the figure were fourteen eggs, limes, and balls 
of camphor, and a scrap of paper bearing the age of the 
servant, and the names of his father and mother. A 
Muhammadan fortune-teller advised the servant to burn 
the image, so at midnight he made an offering of a sheep, 
camphor, betel nuts, and cocoanuts, and performed the 
cremation ceremony. 

In 1903, a life-size nude female human figure with 
feet everted and directed backwards, carved out of the 
soft wood of Alstonia scholaris, was washed ashore at 
Calicut in Malabar. Long nails had been driven in all 
over the head, body, and limbs, and a large square hole 
cut out above the navel. Inscriptions in Arabic characters 
were scrawled over it. By a coincidence, the corpse of 
a man was washed ashore close to the figure. Possibly 
it represented the figure of a woman who was possessed 
by an evil spirit, which was attached to it by a nail 
between the legs before it was cast into the sea, and 
was made on the Laccadive islands,* some of the residents 
on which are notorious necromancers. It has been sug- 
gested f that the figure may represent some notorious 
witch ; that the nails were driven into it, and the mutila- 
tion made in order to injure her, and the spells added 
to destroy her magical powers ; finally, that the image 
was cast into the sea as a means of getting rid of the 

* Laccadiveans come to the Malabar coast in sailing-boats. 
t Nature^ i8th October, 1906. 


sorceress. There is a tradition that the goddess Bhagavati, 
who is worshipped at Kodungallur in Malabar, was rescued 
by a fisherman when she was shut up in a jar, and thrown 
into the sea by a great magician. The Lingadars of the 
Kistna district are said* to have made a specialty of 
bottling evil spirits, and casting the bottles away in some 
place where no one is likely to come across them, and 
liberate them. 

A few years ago, another wooden representation of a 
human being was washed ashore at Calicut. The figure 
is II inches in height. The arms are bent on the chest, 
and the palms of the hands are placed together as in the 
act of saluting. A square cavity, closed by a wooden lid, 
has been cut out of the abdomen, and contains apparently 
tobacco, ganja (Indian hemp), and hair. An iron bar 
has been driven from the back of the head through the 
body, and terminates in the abdominal cavity. A sharp 
cutting instrument has been driven into the chest and 
back in twelve places. 

A life-size female figure, rudely scratched on a plank 
of wood, with Arabic inscriptions scrawled on it, and 
riddled with nails, was washed ashore on the beach at 
Tellicherry in Malabar. In the same district, a friend 
once picked up on the shore at Cannanore a wooden 
figure about 6 inches high, riddled with nails. His wife's 
ayah implored him to get rid of it, as it would bring 
nothing but misfortune. He accordingly made a present 
of it to a recently married friend, whose subsequent career 
was characterised by a long series of strokes of bad luck, 
which his wife attributed entirely to the possession of 
the dreadful image. 

Sometimes, in Malabar, "a mantram is written on the 
stem of the kaitha plant, on which is also drawn a figure 
* Madras Mail, i8th November, 1905. 


representing the person to be injured. A hole is bored to 
represent the navel. The mantram is repeated, and at each 
repetition a certain thorn (karamullu) is stuck into the 
limbs of the figure. The name of the person, and of the 
star under which he was born, are written on a piece of 
cadjan, which is stuck into the navel. The thorns are 
removed, and replaced twenty-one times. Two magic 
circles are drawn below the nipples of the figure. The 
stem is then hung up in the smoke of the kitchen. A 
pot of toddy, and some other accessories, are procured, 
and with them the warlock performs certain rites. He 
then moves three steps backwards, and shouts aloud 
thrice, fixing in the thorns again, and thinking all the 
while of the particular mischief with which he will afflict 
the person to be injured. When all this has been done, 
the person whose figure has been drawn on the stem, and 
pricked with thorns, feels pain." * 

The following variant of the above rite has been 
described | : — 

''A block of lead is moulded into the effigy of a man 
about a span in length. The stomach is opened, and 
the name and star of the intended victim are inscribed 
along with a charm on a lead plate, and placed therein. 
The effigy is laid recumbent on a plantain leaf, on 
which a little water mixed with sandal has first been 
sprinkled, and the smoke of an extinguished wick is 
passed thrice over it. Then nine little square pieces of 
plantain leaf (or leaves of Strychnos Nux-vomicd) are placed 
round the effigy, and in each square some rice-flour, and 
chouflower petals. Beside the effigy are shells holding 
toddy and arrack (liquor), a burning lamp, and several 
little wicks. One of the wicks is lighted, and the flame 
passed thrice over the collection. Nine wicks are lighted, 

* F. Fawcett, Madras Museum Bull., 1901, iii., No. 3, 317. 
t Madras Mail^ 19th November, 1I597. 


and put on the nine squares. The charm inscribed on 
the lead plate is at this stage repeated fervently in an 
undertone no less than twenty-one times. This preamble, 
or one closely resembling it, is generally the beginning of 
the mantravadi's programme. The rest of it is guided 
by the special circumstances of each case. Let us suppose 
that the wizard, having a victim in view, wishes the latter 
to be afflicted with burning pains and insufferable heat 
all over his body. The following is the ceremony he 
would perform. Thinking of the victim, he drives a 
thorn of Cafithmm. parviflorum into the effigy, and then, 
folding up the collection detailed above in the plantain 
leaf, he proceeds to a tank or pool, and immerses himself 
up to the neck. He places the bundle on the surface of 
the water — he tells you it will float despite the lead — 
and, calling for a cock, cuts off its head, permitting the 
blood and the head to fall on the bundle. He presses 
the bundle down into the water, and submerges himself 
at the same time. Coming to the surface, he goes ashore, 
whistling thrice, and being very careful not to look behind 
him. Within twenty-one days, the charm will take effect. 
In order to induce a boil or tumour to appear in a victim's 
foot, the mantravadi inscribes a certain charm on a sheet 
of lead, and stuffs the plate into a frog's mouth, repeats 
another charm, and blows into the batrachian's mouth, 
which is then stitched up, after which the creature is 
bound with twenty-one coils of string. The frog is next 
set down on a plantain leaf, the ritual already described 
with the squares, toddy, etc., is performed, the frog is 
wrapped up together with the various substances in the 
leaf, and buried at some spot where two or more roads 
meet, and which the victim is likely to pass. Should he 
cross the fateful spot, he will suddenly become conscious 
of a feeling in his foot, as though a thorn had pricked 
him. From that moment dates the beginning of a week 
of intense agony. His foot swells, fever sets in, he has 
pains all over his body, and for seven days existence is 
intolerable. The cherukaladi is another form of odi 


mantram, and the manner in which it is performed is 
extremely interesting. The wizard takes three balls of 
rice, blackens one, reddens another, and passes through 
the third a young yetah fish {Bagarius yarrellii), after 
having put down its throat seven green chillies, seven 
grains of raw rice, and as many of pepper. In the 
carapace of a crab some toddy, and in the valve of a 
particular kind of mussel, some arrack is placed. The 
sorcerer conveys all these things to a hill built by termites 
(white-ants). The crown of the hill is knocked off, and 
the substances are thrown in. Walking round the mound 
thrice, the magician recites a charm, and comes away 
without looking over his shoulder.* Within a very short 
time, similar effects are produced as those resulting from 
the previously described form of sorcery." 

A grandha (palm-leaf book), describing how an enem}' 
may be struck down, gives the following details. The 
head of a fowl with dark-coloured flesh is cut off. The 
head is then split open, and a piece of cadjan (palm- 
leaf), on which are written the name of the person to 
be injured, and the name of the star under which he 
was born, is stuck in the split head, which is then sewn 
up and the tongue stitched to the beak. The head is 
then inserted into a certain fruit, which is tied up with 
a withe of a creeper, and deposited under the enemy's 

In Malabar, a wooden figure is sometimes made, and 
a tuft of a woman's hair tied on its head. It is fixed to 
a tree, and nails are driven into the neck and breast, to 
inflict hurt on an enemy. Sometimes a live frog or 
lizard is buried within a cocoanut shell, after nails have 
been stuck into its eyes and stomach. The deaths of 

* In like manner, the chief mourner at the funeral among many 
castes, after breaking a water-pot at the graveside, retires without 
looking back. 


the animal and the person are supposed to take place 
simultaneously.* When a Tamil woman of the Parivaram 
caste who commits adultery outside the caste is punished 
with excommunication, a mud image representing her is 
made, two thorns are poked into its eyes, and it is 
thrown away outside the village. f At Bangalore in the 
Mysore province, a monthly festival is held in honour 
of Gurumurthi Swami, at which women disturbed by 
the spirits of drowned persons become possessed. The 
sufferer is dragged by the hair of the head to a tree, to 
which a lock of the hair is nailed. She flings herself 
about in a frenzy, and throws herself on the ground, 
leaving the lock of hair torn out by the roots fastened 
to the tree by the nail. Eventually the spirit goes up 
the tree, and the woman recovers. J In the Madura 
district, women possessed by devils may be seen at the 
great temple at Madura every Navaratri, waiting for 

'^ There are many professional exorcists, who are often 
the pujaris (priests) at the shrine of the local goddess. At 
dead of night they question the evil spirit, and ask him 
who he is, why he has come there, and what he wants 
to induce him to go away. He answers through the 
mouth of the woman, who works herself up into a frenzy, 
and throws herself about wildly. If he will not answer, 
the woman is whipped with the rattan which the exorcist 
carries, or with a bunch of margosa {Melia Azadirachta) 
twigs. When he replies, his requests for offerings of 
certain kinds are complied with. When he is satisfied, 
and agrees to leave, a stone is placed on the woman's 
head, and she is let go, and dashes off into darkness. 
The place at which the stone drops to the ground is 

* F. Fawcett, Madras Musewn Bull., 1900, iii., No. i, 51. 
t "Gazetteer of the Madura District," 1906, i. 103. 
% F. Fawcett, yb«r«. Anthrop. Soc, Bombay, i. 533-5. 


supposed to be the place where the evil spirit is content 
to remain, and, to keep him there, a lock of the woman's 
hair is nailed with an iron nail to the nearest tree."* 

Sometimes a sorcerer makes an evil spirit take a 
vow that it will not trouble any one in the future, and, 
in return, offers to it the blood of fowls, a goat, etc. He 
then orders the spirit to climb a tree, and drives three 
large iron nails into the trunk thereof. As iron is disliked 
by evil spirits, the result is to confine the spirit in the tree, 
for it cannot descend beyond the nails. In the Telugu 
country, when a person is supposed to be possessed by 
a devil, it is often the practice to take him to some 
special tree, which is believed to be a favourite residence 
of demons, and drive a nail into the trunk. If the devil 
has any proper feeling, he thereupon leaves the man or 
woman, and takes up his abode in the tree. This 
ceremony is performed with certain religious rites, and 
involves considerable expenditure. Sometimes, devil 
drivers are called in, who **seat the woman in a fog of 
resin smoke, and work upon or beat her until she declares 
the supposed desires of the devil in the way of sacrifice ; 
and, when these have been complied with, one of her 
hairs is put in a bottle, formally shown to the village 
goddess, and buried in the jungle, while iron nails are 
driven into the threshold of the woman's house to prevent 
the devil's return." f 

At the first menstrual ceremonies of a Pulaya girl 
in the Cochin State, she stands on the morning of the 
seventh day before some Parayas, who play on their 
flute and drum, to cast out the demons, if any, from her 
body. If she is possessed by them, she leaps with frantic 

* " Gazetteer of the Madura District," 1906, i. 87. 

t "Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam District," 1907, i. 73. 


movements. In this case, the demon is transferred to a 
tree by driving a nail into the trunk, after offerings have 
been made.* When an Odde (Telugu navvy) girl reaches 
puberty, she is confined in a special hut, in which a piece 
of iron, and other things, are placed, to keep off evil spirits. 
In some castes, when a woman is in labour, an iron sickle 
is kept on the cot for a similar purpose. After delivery, 
she keeps iron in some form, e.g.^ a small crowbar, knife, 
or nails, in the room, and takes it about with her when 
she goes out. At a Nayar funeral in Malabar, the chief 
mourner holds in his hand, or tucks into his waist-cloth, 
a piece of iron, generally a long key.f At a marriage 
among the Musu Kammas in the Telugu country, an 
iron ring is tied to the milk-post. For curing sprains, it 
is said to be a common practice to keep near the patient 
a sickle, an iron measure, or any article of iron which is at 
hand. A ceremony, called Dwara Pratishta, is performed 
by Lingayats when the door-frame of a new house is set up, 
and an iron nail is driven into the frame, to prevent devils 
or evil spirits from entering the house. A former Raja of 
Vizianagram would not allow the employment of iron in 
the construction of buildings in his territory, because it 
would inevitably be followed by smallpox orother epidemic.| 
A few years ago, a Native servant was charged with 
beating with a cane a woman who was suffering from 
malarial fever after her confinement, in order to drive out 
a devil, which was said to be the spirit of a woman who 
was drowned some time previously. The woman died 
three days after the beating, and various abrasions were 
found on the head and body. The sub-magistrate held 

* L. K. Anantha Krishna Iyer, "The Cochin Tribes and Castes," 
1909, i. 99. 

t F. Fawcett, Madras Museum Bull., 1901, iii., No. 3, 247. 
X M. J. Walhouse, " Ind. Ant." 1881, x. 364. 


that the hurt was part of the ceremony, to which the 
husband and mother of the woman, and the woman 
herself, gave their consent. But, as the hurt was need- 
lessly severe, the servant was fined twenty-five rupees, or 
in default five weeks' rigorous imprisonment. 

The practice of extracting or knocking out some of 
the teeth of a magician is widespread throughout Southern 
India. In connection therewith Mr R. Morris writes to 
me as follows : — 

"A sorcerer's spells depend for their efficacy upon the 
distinctness with which they are pronounced. The words 
uttered by a man, some or all of whose front teeth are 
damaged, are not so clear and distinct as those of a 
man whose teeth are intact. Consequently, if a sorcerer's 
front teeth are smashed, he is ruined as a sorcerer. And, 
if the front teeth of his corpse are broken or extracted, 
his ghost is prevented from bewitching people. It is 
necessary to mutilate a corpse, in order to prevent the 
ghost doing what the live man unmutilated could have done. 
For example, when a man is murdered, he is hamstrung, 
to prevent the ghost from following in pursuit." 

In connection with sorcery among the Oriyas, Mr S. 
P. Rice tells us * that a girl was suffering from mental 
disease, and believed to be possessed by a devil. She 
declared that she was bewitched by a certain man, who 
had to be cured of his power over her. Accordingly, 
the friends and relatives of the girl went to this man's 
house, dragged him out into the road, laid him on his 
back, and sat on his chest. They then proceeded to 
extract two of his front teeth with a hammer and pincers. 
Mr Rice adds that it does not appear how the cure was 
to work — whether the operators thought that words of 
cursing or magic, coming through the orifice of the teeth, 

* " Occasional Essays on Native South Indian Life," 1901, 7o-i- 



would be mumbled, and thus lose some of their incisive 
force, and therefore of their power for evil, or whether 
it was thought that the devil wanted room to fly out. 
Attacks upon supposed sorcerers are said to be not 
uncommon in the Jeypore Agency. In one instance, a 
wizard's front teeth were pulled out by the local black- 
smith, to render him unable to pronounce his spells 
with the distinctness requisite to real efficiency.* In the 
Vizagapatam district, where a village was supposed to 
contain a witch, a Dasari (religious mendicant) was called 
upon to examine his books, and name the person. He 
fixed on some wretched woman, whose front teeth were 
knocked out, and her mouth filled with filth. She was 
then beaten with a switch made from the castor-oil plant. 
A few years ago, a woman in the North Arcot district 
was suffering from severe pain in the abdomen, and she 
and her husband were made to believe that she was 
possessed by a devil, which a Bairagi (religious mendicant) 
offered to expel. His treatment went on for some days, 
and the final operations were conducted by the side of 
a pond. The Bairagi repeated mantrams, while the 
woman was seated opposite him. Suddenly she grew 
violently excited, and possessed by the deity Muniswara. 
She pulled the Bairagi backwards by his hair, and cried 
out, ''Break his teeth." She then opened his mouth by 
pulling up the upper lip, and her husband took a small" 
stone, and broke some of the incisor teeth. The woman 
continued to cry out, ''He is chanting mantrams; pour 
water into his mouth, and stop his breathing." A third 
party brought water, and the woman's husband poured 
it into the Bairagi's mouth. A struggle ensued, and the 
woman called out, " I am losing my life ; he is chanting ; 
the mantram is in his throat ; he is binding me by his 
* " Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam District," 1907, i. 205. 


spell ; put a stick into his throat." The third party then 
brought the Bairagi's curved stick (yogathandam), which 
the husband thrust into the Bairagi's mouth, with the 
result that he died. The woman was sent to a lunatic 
asylum, and her husband, as there was no previous 
intention to cause death, and he was evidently under the 
influence of blind superstition, received only four and 
a half months' imprisonment. In a further case which 
occurred in the North Arcot district, a man was believed 
to have great power over animals, of which he openly 
boasted, threatening to destroy all the cattle of one of 
his neighbours. This man and his friends believed that 
they could deprive the sorcerer of his power for evil by 
drawing all his teeth, which they proceeded to do with 
fatal results. In the Kistna district, a Mala weaver was 
suspected of practising sorcery by destroying men with 
devils, and bringing cholera and other diseases. He 
was met by certain villagers, and asked for tobacco. 
While he stopped to get the tobacco out, he was seized 
and thrown on the ground. His hands were tied behind 
his back, and his legs bound fast with his waist-cloth. 
One man sat on his legs, another on his waist, and a 
third held his head down by the kudumi (hair-knot). His 
mouth was forced open with a pair of large pincers, 
and a piece of stick was thrust between the teeth to 
prevent the mouth closing. One of the assistants got 
a stone as big as a man's fist, and with it struck the 
sorcerer's upper and lower teeth several times until they 
were loosened. Then nine teeth were pulled out with 
the pincers. A quantity of milk-hedge {Euphorbia) juice 
was poured on the bleeding gums, and the unfortunate 
man was left lying on his back, to free himself from his 
bonds as best he could.* In the Tamil country, the 
* H. J. Stokes, " Ind. Ant.," 1876, v. 355-6. 


Vekkil Tottiyans are supposed to be able to control 
certain evil spirits, and cause them to possess a man. 
It is believed, however, that they are deprived of their 
power as soon as they lose one of their teeth. 

The Kondhs of Ganjam believe that they can transform 
themselves into tigers or snakes, half the soul leaving 
the body and becoming changed into one of these animals, 
either to kill an enemy, or to satisfy hunger by having 
a good feed on cattle. During this period they are said 
to feel dull and listless, and, if a tiger is killed in the 
forest, they will die at the same time. Mr Fawcett 
informs me that the Kondhs believe that the soul 
wanders during sleep. On one occasion, a dispute arose 
owing to a man discovering that another Kondh, whose 
spirit used to wander about in the guise of a tiger, ate 
up his soul, and he fell ill. Like the Kondhs, some 
Paniyans of Malabar are believed to be gifted with the 
power of changing themselves into animals. There is 
a belief that, if they wish to secure a woman whom they 
lust after, one of the men gifted with the special power 
goes to the house at night with a hollow bamboo, and 
goes round it three times. The woman then comes out, 
and the man, changing himself into a bull or dog, works 
his wicked will. The woman is said to die in the course 
of a few days. For assuming the disguise of an animal, 
the following formulas are said * to be effective : — 

I. Take the head of a dog and burn it, and plant 
on it a vellakuthi plant. Burn camphor and frankincense, 
and adore it. Then pluck the root, mix it with the milk 
of a dog, and the bones of a cat. A mark made with 
the mixture on the forehead will enable a person to 
assume the form of any animal he thinks of. 

* L. K. Anantha Krishna Iyer, "The Cochin Tribes and Castes," 
1909, I. 167. 


2. Worship with a lighted wick and incense before 
a stick of the malankara plant. Then chant the Sakti 
mantram one hundred and one times. Watch carefully 
which way the stick inclines. Proceed to the south of 
the stick, and pluck the whiskers of a live tiger. Make 
with them a ball of the veerali silk, string it with silk, 
and enclose it within the ear. Stand on the palms of the 
hand to attain the disguise of a tiger, and, with the stick 
in hand, think of a cat, white bull, or any other animal. 
Then you will appear as such in the eyes of others. 

The name Chedipe (prostitute) is applied to sorceresses 
in the Godavari district. The Chedipe is believed to 
ride on a tiger at night over the boundaries of seven 
villages, and return home at early morn. When she 
does not like a man, she goes to him bare-bodied at 
dead of night, the closed doors of the house in which 
he is sleeping opening before her. She sucks his blood 
by putting his toe in her mouth. He will then lie like 
a corpse. Next morning he feels uneasy and intoxicated, 
as if he had taken ganja, and remains in this condition 
all day. If he does not take medicine from some one 
skilled in the treatment of such cases, it is said that he 
will die. If he is properly treated, he will recover in 
about ten days. If he makes no effort to get cured, the 
Chedipe will molest him again, and, becoming gradually 
emaciated, he will die. When a Chedipe enters a house, 
all those who are awake will become insensible, those 
who are seated falling down as if they had taken a 
soporific drug. Sometimes she drags out the tongue 
of the intended victim, who will die at once. At other 
times, slight abrasions will be found on the skin of the 
victim, and, when the Chedipe puts pieces of stick 
thereon, they burn as if burnt by fire. Sometimes she 
will find him behind a bush, and, undressing there, will 


fall on any passer-by in the jungle, assuming the form 
of a tiger with one of the legs in human form. When 
thus disguised, she is called Marulupuli (enchanting 
tiger). If the man is a brave fellow, and tries to kill 
the Chedipe with any instrument he may have with him, 
she will run away ; and, if any man belonging to her 
village detects her mischief, she will assume her real 
form, and say blandly that she is only digging roots. 
The above story was obtained by a Native official when 
he visited a Koyi village, where he was told that a man 
had been sentenced to several years' imprisonment for 
being one of a gang who had murdered a Chedipe for 
being a sorceress. 

In the Vizagapatam district, the people believe that 
a witch, when she wishes to revenge herself on any man, 
climbs at night to the top of his house, and, making a 
hole through the roof, drops a thread down till the end 
of it touches the body of the sleeping man. Then she 
sucks at the other end, and draws up all the blood out 
of his body. Witches are said to be able to remove all 
the bones out of a man's body, or to deposit a fish, ball 
of hair, or rags in his stomach. The town of Jeypore 
was once said to be haunted by a ghost. It was described 
as a woman, who paraded the town at midnight in a 
state of nudity, and from her mouth proceeded flames of 
fire. She sucked the blood of any loose cattle she found 
about, and, in the same way, revenged herself on any 
man who had insulted her.* 

I am informed by Mr G. F. Paddison that, in cases 
of sickness among the Savaras of Vizagapatam, a buffalo 
is tied up near the door of the house. Herbs and rice 
in small platters, and a little brass vessel containing 
toddy, balls of rice, flowers, and medicine, are brought 
* "Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam District," 1907, i. ■j'^^. 


with a bow and arrow. The arrow is thicker at the 
basal end than towards the tip. The narrow part goes, 
when shot, through a hole in front of the bow, which 
is too small to allow of the passage of the rest of the 
arrow. A Beju (wise woman) pours some toddy over 
the herbs and rice, and daubs the patient over the fore- 
head, breasts, stomach, and back. She croons out a 
long incantation to the goddess, stopping at intervals 
to call out " Daru," to attract the attention of the goddess. 
She then takes the bow and arrow, and shoots twice into 
the air, and, standing behind the kneeling patient, shoots 
balls of medicine stuck on the tip of the arrow at her. 
The construction of the arrow is such that the balls are 
dislodged from its tip. The patient is thus shot at all 
over the body, which is bruised by the impact of the 
medicine balls. Afterwards the Beju shoots one or two 
balls at the buffalo, which is taken to a path forming 
the village boundary, and killed with a tangi (axe). 
The patient is then daubed with the blood of the buffalo, 
rice, and toddy, and a feast concludes the ceremonial. 
Mr Paddison once gave some medicine to the Porojas 
of Vizagapatam during an epidemic of cholera in a 
village. They took it eagerly, but, as he was going 
away, asked whether it would not be a quicker cure to 
put the witch in the next village, who had brought on the 
cholera, into jail. In the Koraput taluk of Vizagapatam, 
a wizard once had a reputation for possessing the power 
of transplanting trees, and it was believed that, if a man 
displeased him, his trees were moved in the night, and 
planted in some one else's grounds. 

It is recorded * by the Rev. J. Cain that the Koyis of 
the Godavari district '' assert that the death of every one is 
caused by the machinations of a sorcerer, instigated thereto 
* " Ind. Ant.," 1876, v. 358. 


by an enemy of the deceased, or of the deceased's friends. 
So, in former years, inquiry was always made as to the 
person likely to have been at such enmity with the deceased 
as to wish for his death; and, having settled upon a 
suspicious individual, the friends of the deceased used to 
carry the corpse to the accused, and call upon him to clear 
himself by undergoing the ordeal of dipping his hands in 
boiling oil or water.* Within the last two years, I have 
known of people running away from their village because 
of their having been accused of having procured by means 
of a wizard the death of some one with whom they were 
at enmity about a plot of land." 

According to another account,! *'some male member 
of the family of the deceased throws coloured rice over the 
corpse as it lies on the bed, pronouncing as he does so 
the names of all the known sorcerers who live in the 
neighbourhood. It is even now solemnly asserted that, 
when the name of the wizard responsible for the death is 
pronounced, the bed gets up, and moves towards the 
house or village where he resides." 

The Rev. J. Cain { once saw a magician at work in the 
Godavari district, ''discovering the cause of the sickness 
which had laid prostrate a strong Koyi man. He had 
in his hand a leaf from an old palmyra leaf book, and, 
as he walked round and round the patient, he pretended 
to be reading. Then he took up a small stick, and drew 
a number of lines on the ground, after which he danced 
and sang round and round the sick man, who sat looking 
at him, evidently much impressed with his performance. 
Suddenly he made a dart at the man, and, stooping down, 

* Trial by Ordeal, see my "Ethnographic Notes in Southern India," 
1907, 407-32. 

t "Gazetteer of the Godavaii District," 1907, i. 64. 
; Madras Christ. Coll. Mag., 1887-8, v. 355. 


bit him severely in two or three places in the back. Then, 
rushing to the front, he produced a few grains, which 
he said he had found in the man's back, and which were 
evidently the cause of the sickness." 

In another case, a young Koyi was employed to teach 
a few children in his village, but ere long he was attacked 
by a strange disease, which no medicine could cure. As 
a last resource, a magician was called in, who declared 
the illness to have been brought on by a demoness at the 
instigation of some enemy, who was envious of the money 
which the lad had received for teaching. The magician 
produced a little silver, which he declared to be a sure 
sign that the sickness was connected with the silver money 
he was receiving for teaching. 

A riot took place, in 1900, at the village of Korra- 
vanivasala in the Vizagapatam district, under the follow- 
ing strange circumstances. A Konda Dora (hill cultivator 
caste) named Korra Mallayya pretended that he was 
inspired, and gradually gathered round him a camp of 
four or live thousand people from various places. At first 
his proceedings were harmless enough, but at last he 
gave out that he was a reincarnation of one of the five 
Pandava brothers, the heroes of the Mahabharata, who 
are worshipped by the Konda Doras.* He further 
announced that his infant son was the god Krishna ; that 
he would drive out the English, and rule the country 
himself; and that, to effect this, he would arm his followers 
with bamboos, which would be turned by magic into 
guns, and would change the weapons of the authorities 
into water. Bamboos were cut, and rudely fashioned to 
resemble guns, and, armed with these, the camp was 
drilled by the Swami (god), as Mallayya had come to 

* At times of census, the Konda Doras have returned themselves as 
Pandava kulam, or Pandava caste. 


be called. The assembly next sent word that they were 
going to loot Pachipenta, and, when two constables came 
to see how matters stood, the fanatics fell upon them, and 
beat them to death. The local police endeavoured to 
recover the bodies, but, owing to the threatening attitude 
of the Swami's followers, had to abandon the attempt. 
The district magistrate then went to the place in person, 
collected reserve police from various places, and rushed 
the camp to arrest the Swami and the other leaders of 
the movement. The police were resisted by the mob, 
and obliged to fire. Eleven of the rioters were killed, others 
wounded or arrested, and the rest dispersed. Sixty of them 
were tried for rioting, and three, including the Swami, 
for murdering the constables. Of the latter, the Swami 
died in jail, and the other two were hanged. The Swami's 
son, the god Krishna, also died, and all trouble ended. 

A Kapu (Telugu cultivator) in the Cuddapah district 
once pretended to have received certain maxims direct from 
the Supreme Being, and forewarned his neighbours that 
he would fall into a trance, which actually occurred, and 
lasted for three days. On his recovery, he stated that his 
spirit had been during this time in heaven, learning the 
principles of the Advaita religion from a company of 
angels. One of his peculiarities was that he went about 
naked, because, when once engaged in separating two 
bullocks which were fighting, his cloth tumbled down, 
after which he never put it on again. This eccentric 
person is said to have pulled a handful of maggots from 
the body of a dead dog, to have put them into his mouth, 
and to have spat them out again as grains of rice. A 
shrine was built over his grave.* 

A few years ago, a Muhammadan fakir undertook to 
drive away the plague in Bellary. Incantations were 
* " Manual of the Cuddapah District," 1875, 290-1. 


performed over a black goat, which was sacrificed at a 
spot where several roads met. A considerable sum of 
money was collected, and the poor were fed. But the 
plague was not stayed. 

On one occasion, an old woman hearing that her only 
son was dangerously ill, sought the aid of a magician, 
who proceeded to utter mantrams, to counteract the evil 
influences which were at work. While this was being 
done, an accomplice of the magician turned up, and, 
declaring that he was a policeman, threatened to charge 
the two with sorcery if they did not pay him a certain 
sum of money. The woman paid up, but discovered 
later on that she had been hoaxed. 

Two men were, some years ago, sentenced to rigorous 
imprisonment under the following circumstances. A lady, 
who was suffering from illness, asked a man who claimed 
to be a magician to cure her. He came with his con- 
federate, and told the patient to place nine sovereigns 
on a clay image. This sum not being forthcoming, a 
few rupees and a piece of a gold necklace were accepted. 
These were deposited on the image, and it was placed 
in a tin box, which was locked up, one of the men retain- 
ing the key. On the following day the two men returned, 
and the rupees and piece of gold were placed on a fresh 
image. Becoming inspired by the god, one of the men 
announced that the patient must give a gold bangle off 
her wrist, if she wished to be cured quickly. The bangle 
was given up, and placed on the image, which was then 
converted into a ball containing the various articles within 
it. The patient was then directed to look at various 
corners of the room, and repeat a formula. The image 
was placed in a box, and locked up as before, and the 
men retired, promising to return next day. This they 
failed to do, and the lady, becoming suspicious, broke 


open the box, in which the image was found, but the 
money and ornaments were missing. 

A case relating to the supposed guarding of treasure 
by an evil spirit came before the Court in the Coimbatore 
district in 1908. Two Valluvans (Tamil astrologers) 
were staying in a village, where they were foretelling 
events. They went to the house of an old woman, and, 
while telling her fortune, announced that there was a 
devil in the house guarding treasure, and promised to 
drive it out, if twenty rupees were given to them. The 
woman borrowed the money, and presented it to them. 
In the evening the Valluvans went into the kitchen, 
and shut the door. Certain ceremonies are said to have 
been performed, at the conclusion of which the woman 
and her son entered the room, and, in the light of a 
flickering torch, were shown a pit, in which there was 
a copper pot, apparently full of gold sovereigns. One 
of the astrologers feigned a sudden attack from the 
devil, and fell down as if unconscious. The other 
pushed the people of the house outside the door, and 
again shut it. Eventually the men came out, and 
announced that the devil was a ferocious one, and would 
not depart till a wick from an Erode paradesi was lighted 
before it, for obtaining which a hundred rupees were 
required. If the devil was not thus propitiated, it 
would, they said, kill the people of the house sooner 
or later. The old woman borrowed the sum required, 
and her son and the two astrologers went to Karur to 
take the train to Erode, to meet the paradesi. At Karur 
the two men took tickets for different places, and the 
son, becoming suspicious, informed the police, who 
arrested them. On them were found some circular pieces 
of card covered with gold tinsel. 

A few years ago, a Zamindar (landowner) in the 


Godavari district engaged a Muhammadan to exorcise 
a devil which haunted his house. The latter, explain- 
ing that the devil was a female and fond of jewelry, 
induced the Zamindar to leave a large quantity of jewels 
in a locked receptacle in a certain room, to which only 
the exorcist, and of course the devil, had access. The 
latter, it was supposed, would be gratified by the loan 
of the jewels, and would cease from troubling. The 
exorcist managed to open the receptacle and steal the 
jewels, and, such was the faith of his employer, that 
the offence was not suspected until a police inspector 
seized Rs. 27,000 worth of jewels in Vizagapatam on 
suspicion, and they were with difficulty traced to their 

In a note on wonder-working in India, the Rev. J. 
Sharrock narrates the following incident. 

*'A Sanyasi (ascetic) was ordered with contempt from 
the house of a rich Zemindar. Thereupon, the former 
threatened to curse his house by despatching a devil 
to take possession of it that very night. On one of the 
doors of the inner courtyard he made a number of 
magical passes, and then left the house in high dudgeon. 
As soon as it grew dark, the devil appeared on the 
door in flickering flames of phosphorus, and almost 
frightened the Zemindar and the other inmates out of 
their five senses. Wild with terror, they fled to the 
Sanyasi, and begged and entreated him to come and 
exorcise the devil. Of course he refused, and of course 
they pressed him with greater and greater presents till 
he was satisfied. Then he came with kungkuma (a 
mixture of turmeric, alum, and lime-juice), and rubbed 
the fiery demon off with the usual recitation of mantras. 
During the rest of his stay, the Sanyasi was treated 
with the most profound respect, while his sishyas 
(disciples) received the choicest food and fruits that 
could be obtained." 


The following cases are called from the annual reports 
of the Chemical Examiner to the Government of Madras, in 
further illustration of the practices of pseudo-magicians. 

(a) A wizard came to a village, in order to exorcise a 
devil which possessed a certain woman. He was treated 
like a prince, and was given the only room in the house, 
while the family turned out into the hall. He lived 
therefor several days, and then commenced his ceremonies. 
He drew the figure of a lotus on the floor, made the 
woman sit down, and commenced to twist her hair with 
his wand. When she cried out, he sent her out of the 
room, saying she was unworthy to sit on the lotus figure, 
but promising nevertheless to exorcise the devil without 
her being present. He found a half-witted man in the 
village, drugged him with ganja, brought him to the 
house, and performed his ceremonies on this man, who, 
on becoming intoxicated with the drug, began to get 
boisterous. The wizard tied him up with a rope, be- 
cause he had become possessed of the devil that had 
possessed the woman. The man was subsequently traced 
by his relatives, found in an unconscious state, and 
taken to hospital. The wizard got rigorous imprisonment. 

(3) Some jewels were lost, and a mantrakara (dealer 
in magical spells) was called in to detect the thief. The 
magician erected a screen, behind which he lit a lamp, 
and did other things to impress the crowd with the 
importance of his mantrams. To the assembly he dis- 
tributed betel -leaf patties containing a white powder, 
said to be holy ashes, and the effect of it on the suspected 
individuals, who formed part of the crowd, is said to 
have been instantaneous. So magical was the effect of 
this powder in detecting the thief, that the unfortunate man 
ultimately vomited blood. When the people remonstrated 
with the magician for the severity of his magic, he 


administered to the sufferer an antidote of solution of 
cow-dung and the juice of some leaf. The holy ashes 
were found to contain corrosive sublimate, and the 
magician got eighteen months' rigorous imprisonment. 

I may conclude with a reference to an interesting note 
on the Jesuits of the Madura Mission in the middle of the 
seventeenth century by the Rev. J. S. Chandler, who 
writes as follows : — 

''Dr Nobili lodged in an incommodious hut, and cele- 
brated mass in another hut. The older he got, the more 
he added to the austerity of his life. The Pandarams * 
(non-Brahman priests) made a new attempt against his 
life. One fine day they held a council as to the death 
he should die, and decided on magic. They summoned 
the most famous magician of the kingdom. Every one 
knew of it. When the day came, the magician presented 
himself, followed by a crowd, all alert to witness the 
vengeance of their gods. He insolently arranged his 
machines, and then described circles in the air. Dr Nobili 
regarded him with a composed air. Soon the ceremonies 
became more noisy. The features of the magician became 
decomposed, his eyes inflamed, his face contracted like 
that of one possessed ; he ground his teeth, howled, and 
struck the ground with his feet, hands, and forehead. 
Dr Nobili asked what comedy he was pretending to play. 
Then he recited magical sentences. Dr Nobili begged 
him to spare his throat. The magician said ' You have 
laughed, now die,' and threw a black powder into the 
air, at the same time looking at his victim, to see him fall 
at his feet, and then . . . skedaddled from the jeers of 
the crowd. Dr Nobili addressed the crowd, and from 
that time they regarded him as more than human." 

Mr Chandler narrates further that | '*a Jogi (sorcerer 

* Some Pandarams are managers of Siva temples, 
t "A Madura Missionary, John Eddy Chandler; a Sketch of his 
Life," Boston. 


and exorcist) lost in public opinion by pretending to 
perform a miracle in imitation of a previous Jogi, 
by making a stone bull eat. A quantity of rice and 
other grains was served to the figure, but the vahanam 
(vehicle) of Rudra was not hungry. The Jogi made many 
grimaces, threatened, and even employed a rattan cane, 
but the bull remained motionless. Not so the spectators, 
who overwhelmed the Jogi with blows, and he was only 
saved by his friends, conducted to the frontier by soldiers, 
and forbidden ever again to enter the kingdom." 



It has been said* that ''men not only attempt to act 
directly upon nature, but they usually exhibit a keen desire 
to be guided as to the best course to take when in doubt, 
difficulty, or danger, and to be forewarned of the future. 
The practice of divination is by no means confined to 
professional magicians, or even to soothsayers, but any 
one may employ the accessory means." 

Of professional diviners in Southern India, perhaps 
the best example is afforded by the Kaniyans f or Kanisans 
of Malabar, whose caste name is said to be a Malayalam 
corruption of the Sanskrit Ganika, meaning astrologer. 
Duarte Barbosa,| at the beginning of the sixteenth 
century, has a detailed reference to the Kaniyans, of whom 
he writes that " they learn letters and astronomy, and some 
of them are great astrologers, and foretell many future 
things, and form judgements upon the births of men. 
Kings and great persons send to call them, and come 
out of their palaces to gardens and pleasure-houses to see 

* A. C. Haddon, "Magic and Fetishism" (Religions ancient and 
modern), 1906, 40. 

t For much of the note on Kaniyans I am indebted to Mr N. 
Subramani Iyer. 

X " Description of the Coasts of East Africa and Malabar," trans- 
lation, Hakluyt Society, 1866, 139. 

273 s 


them, and ask them what they desire to know ; and these 
people form judgement upon these things in a few days, 
and return to those that asked them, but they may not enter 
the palaces ; nor may they approach the king's person 
on account of being low people. And the king is then 
alone with him. They are great diviners, and pay great 
attention to times and places of good and bad luck, which 
they cause to be observed by those kings and great 
men, and by the merchants also ; and they take care 
to do their business at the time which these astrologers 
advise them, and they do the same in their voyages and 
marriages. And by these means these men gain a great 

Buchanan,* three centuries later, notes that the 
Kaniyans "possess almanacks, by which they inform 
people as to the proper time for performing ceremonies or 
sowing their seeds, and the hours which are fortunate or 
unfortunate for any undertaking. When persons are sick 
or in trouble, the Cunishun, by performing certain cere- 
monies in a magical square of 12 places, discovers what 
spirit is the cause of the evil, and also how it may be 

The Kaniyans are practically the guiding spirits in 
all the social and domestic concerns in Malabar, and 
even Christians and Muhammadans resort to them for 
advice. From the moment of the birth of an infant, 
which is noted by the Kaniyan for the purpose of casting 
its horoscope, to the moment of death, the services of 
the village astrologer are constantly in requisition. He 
is consulted as to the cause of all calamities, and the 
cautious answers that he gives satisfy the people. " Putro 
na putri," which may either mean no son but a daughter, 
or no daughter but a son, is referred to as the type of 

* " Journey through Mysore Canara, and Malabar/' 1807, ii. 528. 


a Kaniyan's answer, when questioned about the sex of 
an unborn child. 

" It would be difficult," Mr Logan writes,* '* to describe 
a single important occasion in everyday life when the 
Kanisan is not at hand, foretelling lucky days and hours, 
casting horoscopes, explaining the cause of calamities, 
prescribing remedies for untoward events, and physicians 
(not physic) for sick persons. Seed cannot be sown, or 
trees planted, unless the Kanisan has been consulted 
beforehand. He is even asked to consult his shastras to 
find lucky days and moments for setting out on a journey, 
commencing an enterprise, giving a loan, executing a 
deed, or shaving the head. For such important occasions 
as births, marriages, tonsure, investiture with the sacred 
thread, and beginning the A, B, C, the Kanisan is, of 
course, indispensable. His work, in short, mixes him up 
with the gravest as well as the most trivial of the domestic 
events of the people, and his influence and position are 
correspondingly great. The astrologer's finding, as one 
will assert with all due reverence, is the oracle of God 
himself, with the justice of which every one ought to 
be satisfied, and the poorer classes follow his dictates 
unhesitatingly. The astrologer's most busy time is from 
January to July, the period of harvest and marriages, but 
in the other six months of the year he is far from leading 
an idle life. His most lucrative business lies in casting 
horoscopes, recording the events of a man's life from birth 
to death, pointing out dangerous periods of life, and pre- 
scribing rules and ceremonies to be observed by individuals 
for the purpose of propitiating the gods and planets, and 
so averting the calamities of dangerous times. He also 
shows favourable junctures for the commencement of under- 
takings, and the grantham or book, written on palm leaf, 
sets forth in considerable detail the person's disposition 
and mental qualities, as affected by the position of the 
planets in the zodiac at the moment of birth. All this is 

* "Malabar," 1887, i. 140-1. 


a work of labour, and of time. There are few members 
of respectable families who are not thus provided, and 
nobody grudges the five to twenty-five rupees usually paid 
for a horoscope, according to the position and reputation of 
the astrologer. Two things are essential to the astrologer, 
namely, a bag of cowry shells {Cyprcza moneia), and an 
almanac. When any one comes to consult him,* he quietly 
sits down, facing the sun, on a plank seat or mat, murmur- 
ing some mantrams or sacred verses, opens his bag of 
cowries, and pours them on the floor. With his right 
hand he moves them slowly round and round, solemnly 
reciting meanwhile a stanza or two in praise of his guru 
or teacher, and of his deity, invoking their help. He then 
stops, and explains what he has been doing, at the same 
time taking a handful of cowries from the heap, and 
placing them on one side. In front is a diagram drawn 
with chalk (or soapstone) on the floor, and consisting of 
twelve compartments (rasis), one for each month in the 
year. Before commencing operations with the diagram, 
he selects three or five of the cowries highest up in the 
heap, and places them in a line on the right-hand side. 
[In an account before me, three cowries and two glass 
iDOttle-stoppers are mentioned as being placed on this side]. 
These represent Ganapati (the belly god, the remover of 
difficulties), the sun, the planet Jupiter, Sarasvati (the 
goddess of speech), and his own guru or preceptor. To 
all of these the astrologer gives due obeisance, touching 
his ears and the ground three times with both hands. 
The cowries are next arranged in the compartments of 
the diagram, and are moved about from compartment to 
compartment by the astrologer, who quotes meanwhile 
the authority on which he makes the moves. Finally he 
explains the result, and ends with again worshipping the 
deified cowries, who were witnessing the operation as 

* The Kaniyan, when wanted in his professional capacity, presents 
himself with triple ash marks of Siva on his chest, arms, and forehead. 


According to another account,* the Kaniyan *' pours 
his cowries on the ground, and, after rolling them in 
the palm of his right hand, while repeating mantrams, 
he selects the largest, and places them in a row outside 
the diagram at its right-hand top corner. They represent 
the first seven planets, and he does obeisance to them, 
touching his forehead and the ground three times with 
both hands. The relative position of the nine planets is 
then worked out, and illustrated with cowries in the 

The Mulla Kurumbas O'ungle tribe) of Malabar are 
said t to '' have a gift of prophecy, some being initiated in 
the art known as Kotiveykal, literally planting betel vine. 
The professor, when consulted about any future event, 
husks a small quantity of rice by hand, places it inside 
a scooped shell of a dried kuvvalam fruit {^Egle Marmelos)^ 
and asks one of his men to plant the betel vine. The man 
understands the meaning, takes out the rice, and spreads 
it on a plank. The professor invokes the Puthadi deity, 
makes a calculation, and gives his reply, which is generally 
found correct." 

Concerning a class of people called Velichchapad, who 
are regarded as oracles in Malabar, Mr F. Fawcett writes 
as follows % : — 

" Far away in rural Malabar, I witnessed the ceremony 
in which the Velichchapad exhibited his quality. It was 
in the neighbourhood of a Nayar house, to which thronged 
all the neighbours (Nayar), men and women, boys and 
girls. The ceremony lasts about an hour. The Nayar 
said it was the custom in his family to have it done once 

* " Gazetteer of Malabar," 1908, i. 130. 

t C. Gopalan Nair, Malabar Series, " Wynad, its People and Tradi- 
tions," 191 1, 70-1. 

X Madras Museum Bull., 1901, iii., No. 3, 273-4. 


a year, but could give no account of how it originated ; 
most probably in a vow, some ancestor having vowed that, 
if such or such benetit be received, he would for ever 
after have an annual performance of this ceremony in his 
house. It involved some expenditure, as the Velichchapad 
had to be paid, and the neighbours had to be fed. Some- 
where about the middle of the little courtyard, the 
Velichchapad placed a lamp (of the Malabar pattern) 
having a lighted wick, a kalasam (brass vessel), some 
flowers, camphor, saffron (turmeric), and other para- 
phernalia. Bhagavati was the deity invoked, and the 
business involved offering flowers, and waving a lighted 
wick round the kalasam. The Velichchapad's movements 
became quicker, and, suddenly seizing his sword, he ran 
round the courtyard (against the sun, as sailors say), 
shouting wildly. He is under the influence of the deity 
who has been introduced into him, and gives oracular 
utterances to the deity's commands. What he said I 
know not, and no one else seemed to know, or care in 
the least, much interested though they were in the 
performance. As he ran, every now and then he cut 
his forehead with the sword, pressing it against the skin 
and sawing vertically up and down. The blood streamed 
all over his face. Presently he became wilder, and whizzed 
round the lamp, bending forward towards the kalasam. 
Evidently some deity, some spirit was present here, and 
spoke through the mouth of the Velichchapad. This, 
I think, undoubtedly represents the belief of all who 
were present. When he had done whizzing round the 
kalasam, he soon became a normal being, and stood 
before my camera. The fee for the self - inflicted 
laceration is one rupee, some rice, etc. I saw the Velich- 
chapad about three days afterwards, going to perform 
elsewhere. The wound on his forehead had healed. 
The careful observer can always identify a Velichchapad 
by the triangular patch over the forehead, where the 
hair will not grow, and where the skin is somewhat 


The Kotas of the Nilgiris worship Magali, to whose 
influence outbreaks of cholera are attributed. When the 
dread disease breaks out among them, special sacrifices 
are performed with a view to propitiating the goddess, 
who is represented by an upright stone in a rude temple 
near Kotagiri. An annual ceremony takes place there, 
at which some man becomes possessed, and announces to 
the people that Magali has come. At the seed-sowing 
ceremony, a Kota priest sometimes becomes inspired, and 
gives expression to oracular utterances. At a Toda 
funeral, the men, congregating on the summit of a 
neighbouring hill, invoked the gods. Four of them, 
seized, apparently in imitation of the Kota devadi (priest), 
with divine frenzy, began to shiver and gesticulate wildly 
while running to and fro with closed eyes. They then 
began to talk in Malayalam, and offer an explanation 
of an extraordinary phenomenon, which had appeared in 
the form of a gigantic figure, which disappeared as 
suddenly as it appeared. The possession by some Todas 
of a smattering of Malayalam is explained by the fact 
that, when grazing their buffaloes on the western slopes 
of the Nilgiris, they come in contact with Malayalam- 
speaking people from the neighbouring Malabar country. 

For the following note on the Sakuna Pakshi (prophetic 
bird) mendicant caste, I am indebted to Mr C. Hayavadana 
Rao. The name of the caste is due to the fact that the 
members thereof wear on their heads a plume composed of 
the feathers of the Indian roller {Coracias indicd) or blue jay 
of Europeans. This is one of the birds called sakuna 
pakshi, because they are supposed to possess the power of 
foretelling events, and on their movements many omens 
depend. Concerning the roller, Jerdon writes * that 

"it is sacred to Siva, who assumed its form, and, at 

"^ " Birds of India," 1877, i. 216-7. 


the feast of the Dasserah at Nagpore, one or more used 
to be liberated by the Rajah, amidst the firing of cannon 
and musketry, at a grand parade attended by all the 
officers of the station. Buchanan Hamilton also states 
that, before the Durga Puja, the Hindus of Calcutta 
purchase one of these birds, and, at the time when they 
throw the image of Durga into the river, set it at 
liberty. It is considered propitious to see it on this 
day, and those who cannot afford to buy one discharge 
their matchlocks to put it on the wing." 

A Sakuna Pakshi, before starting on a begging 
expedition, rises early, and has a cold meal. He then 
puts on the Vaishnava namam mark on his forehead, 
slings on his left shoulder a deer-skin pouch for the 
reception of the rice and other grain which will be given 
to him as alms, and takes up his little drum (gilaka or 
damaraka) made of frog's skin. 

Closely allied to the Sakuna Pakshis are the Budu- 
budikes or Budubudukalas, a class of beggars and fortune- 
tellers, whose name is derived from the drum (budbuki) 
which they use when engaged in predicting future events. 

"A huge parti - coloured turban, surmounted by a 
bunch of feathers, a pair of ragged trousers, a loose long 
coat, which is very often out at elbows, and a capacious 
wallet, ordinarily constitute the Budubudukala's dress. 
Occasionally, if he can afford it, he indulges in the luxury 
of a tiger or cheetah (leopard) skin, which hangs down 
his back, and contributes to the dignity of his calling. 
Add to this an odd assortment of clothes suspended on his 
left arm, and the picture is as grotesque as it can be. He 
is regarded as able to predict the future of human beings 
by the flight and notes of birds. His predictions are 
couched in the chant which he recites. The burden of 
the chant is always stereotyped, and purports to have been 
gleaned from the warble of the feathered songsters of the 
forest. It prognosticates peace, plenty and prosperity to 


the house, the birth of a son to the fair, lotus-eyed house- 
wife, and worldly advancement to the master, whose virtues 
are as countless as the stars, and have the power to 
annihilate his enemies. It also holds out a tempting 
prospect of coming joy in an unknown shape from an 
unknown quarter, and concludes with an appeal for a cloth. 
If the appeal is successful, well and good. If not, the 
Budubudukala has the patience and perseverance to repeat 
his visit the next day, and so on until, in sheer disgust, 
the householder parts with a cloth. The drum, which has 
been referred to as giving the Budubudukala his name, is 
not devoid of interest. In appearance it is an instrument 
of diminutive size, and is shaped like an hour-glass, to the 
middle of which is attached a string with a knot at the end, 
which serves as the percutient. Its origin is enveloped in 
a myth of which the Budubudukala is very proud, for it 
tells of his divine descent, and invests his vocation with 
the halo of sanctity. According to the legend, the 
primitive Budubudukala who first adorned the face of the 
earth was a belated product of the world's creation. 
When he was born or rather evolved, the rest of man- 
kind was already in the field, struggling for existence. 
Practically the whole scheme was complete, and, in the 
economy of the universe, the Budubudukala found himself 
one too many. In this quandary, he appealed to his 
goddess mother Amba Bhavani, who took pity on him, and 
presented him with her husband the god Parameswara's 
drum with the blessing ' My son, there is nothing else for 
you but this. Take it and beg, and you will prosper.' 
Among beggars, the Budubudukala has constituted him- 
self a superior mendicant, to whom the handful of rice 
usually doled out is not acceptable. His demand is for 
clothes of any description, good, bad or indifferent, new or 
old, torn or whole. For, in the plenitude of his wisdom, 
he has realised that a cloth is a marketable commodity, 
which, when exchanged for money, fetches more than the 
handful of rice. The Budubudukala is continually on the 
tramp, and regulates his movements according to the 


seasons of the year. As a rule, he pays his visit to the 
rural parts after the harvest is gathered, for it is then that 
the villagers are at their best, and in a position to hand- 
somely remunerate him for his pains. But, in whatever 
corner of the province he may be, as the Dusserah * 
approaches, he turns his face towards Vellore in North 
Arcot, where the annual festival in honour of Amba 
Bhavani is celebrated."! 

The principal tribal deity of the Kuruvikkaran beggars 
is Kali or Durga, and each sept possesses a small metal 
plate with a figure of the goddess engraved on it, which 
is usually kept in the custody of the headman. It is, 
however, sometimes pledged, and money-lenders give 
considerable sums on the security of the idol, as the 
Kuruvikkarans would on no account fail to redeem it. 
At the annual festival of the goddess, while some cakes 
are being cooked in oil, a member of the tribe prays that 
the goddess will descend on him. Taking some of the 
cakes out of the boiling oil, he rubs the oil on his head 
with his palm. He is then questioned by those assembled, 
to whom he gives oracular replies, after sucking the 
blood from the cut throat of a goat. 

The nomad Koravas or Yerukalas earn a livelihood 
partly by telling fortunes. The Telugu name Yerukala 
is said to mean fortune-teller, and, as the women go on 
their rounds through the streets, they call out ''Yeruko, 
amma, yeruku " i.e.^ prophecies, mother, prophecies. 

Concerning the Pachaikutti (tattooer) or Gadde (sooth- 
sayer) section of these people, Mr Paupa Rao Naidu 
writes J that ''the woman proceeds with a basket and a 

* The Dusserah or Dasara is also known as Sarasvati puja or Ayudha 
puja (worship of weapons or tools). See p. 174. 
t Madras Weekly Mail, 8th August, 1907. 
% " History of Railway Thieves," 1904. ' 


winnowing tray to a village, proclaiming their ostensible 
profession of tattooing and soothsaying, which they do for 
grain or money. When unfortunate village women, who 
always lose their children or often fall ill, see these Gadde 
women moving about, they call them into their houses, 
make them sit, and, pouring some grain into their baskets, 
ask them about their past misery and future lot. These 
women, who are sufficiently trained to speak in suitable 
language, are clever enough to give out some yarns in 
equivocal terms, so that the anxious women, who hope 
for better futurity, understand them in the light upper- 
most in their own minds. The Korava women will be 
duly rewarded, and doubly too, for they never fail to study 
the nature of the house, to see if it offers a fair field for 
booty for their men."* 

It is said that Korava women invoke the village 
goddesses when they are telling fortunes. They use a 
winnowing fan and grains of rice in doing this, and 
prophecy good or evil according to the number of grains 
on the fan.f They carry a basket, winnow, stick, and a 
wicker tray in which cowry shells are embedded in a 
mixture of cow-dung and turmeric. The basket represents 
the goddess Kolapuriamma, and the cowries Poleramma. 
When telling fortunes, the woman places on the basket the 
winnow, rice, betel leaves and areca nuts, and the wicker 
tray. Holding her client's hand over the winnow, and 
moving it about, she commences to chant, and name all 
sorts of deities. From time to time, she touches the hand 
of the person whose fortune is being told with the stick. 
The Korava women are very clever at extracting informa- 
tion concerning the affairs of a client, before they proceed 
to tell her fortune. In a note on the initiation of Yerukala 

* The Koravas are professional burglars, 
t "Madras Census Report," 1901, part i. 164. 


girls into the profession of fortune-telling in Vizagapatam, 
Mr Hayavadana Rao writes that it is carried out on a 
Sunday succeeding the first puberty ceremony. A caste 
feast, with plenty of strong drink, is held, but the girl 
herself fasts. The feast over, she is taken to a spot at 
a little distance from the settlement, called Yerukonda. 
This is said to be the name of a place on the trunk road 
between Vizianagram and Chicacole, to which girls were 
taken in former days to be initiated. The girl is blind- 
folded with a cloth. Boiled rice and green gram (grain) 
are mixed with the blood of a black fowl, black pig, and 
black goat, which are killed. Of this mixture she must 
take at least three morsels, and, if she does not vomit, it 
is taken as a sign that she will become a good fortune- 
teller. Vomiting would indicate that she would be a 
false prophetess. 

The Irulas of the Tamil country, like the Yerukalas, are 
professional fortune-tellers. The Yerukala will carry out 
the work connected with her profession anywhere, at any 
time, and any number of times in a day. The Irula, on 
the contrary, remains at his home, and will only tell 
fortunes close to his hut, or near the hut where his gods 
are kept. In case of sickness, people of all classes come 
to consult the Irula fortune-teller, whose occupation is 
known as Kannimar varnithal. Taking up his drum, he 
warms it over the fire, or exposes it to the heat of the sun. 
When it is sufficiently dry to vibrate to his satisfaction, 
Kannimar is worshipped by breaking a cocoanut, and 
burning camphor and incense. Closing his eyes, the 
Irula beats the drum, and shakes his head about, while his 
wife, who stands near him, sprinkles turmeric water over 
him. After a few minutes, bells are tied to his right wrist. 
In about a quarter of an hour he begins to shiver, and 
breaks out in a profuse perspiration. This is a sure sign 


that he is inspired by the goddess. The shaking of his 
body becomes more violent, he breathes rapidly, and hisses 
like a snake. Gradually he becomes calmer, and addresses 
those around him as if he were the goddess, saying : 
"Oh ! children, I have come down on my car, which is 
decorated with mango flowers, margosa, and jasmine. 
You need fear nothing so long as I exist, and you worship 
me. This country will be prosperous, and the people will 
continue to be happy. Ere long my precious car, im- 
mersed in the tank (pond) on the hill, will be taken out, 
and after that the country will become more prosperous," 
and so on. Questions are generally put to the inspired 
man, not directly, but through his wife. Occasionally, 
even when no client has come to consult him, the Irula 
will take up his drum towards dusk, and chant the praises 
of Kannimar, sometimes for hours at a stretch, with a 
crowd of Irulas collected round him. 

I gather, from a note by Mr. T. Ranga Rao, that the 
jungle Yanadis of the Telugu country pose as prophets of 
human destinies, and pretend to hold intercourse with gods 
and goddesses, and to intercede between god and man. 
Every village or circle has one or more soothsayers, who 
learn their art from experts under a rigid routine. The 
period of pupilage is a fortnight spent in retreat, on a 
dietary of milk and fruits. The god or goddess Venkates- 
waralu, Subbaroyadu, Malakondroyadu, Ankamma, or 
Poleramma, appears like a shadow, and inspires the pupil, 
who, directly the period of probation has ceased, burns 
camphor and frankincense. He then sings in praise of 
the deity, takes a sea -bath with his master, gives a 
sumptuous feast, and becomes an independent soothsayer. 
The story runs that the ardent soothsayers of old wrought 
miracles by stirring boiling rice with his hand, which was 
proof against burn or hurt. His modern brother invokes 


the gods with burning charcoal in his folded hands, to the 
beat of a drum. People flock in large numbers to learn 
the truth. The soothsayer arranges the tribal deity 
Chenchu Devudu, and various local gods, in a god-house, 
which is always kept scrupulously clean, and where 
worship is regularly carried on. The auspicious days for 
soothsaying are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The 
chief soothsayer is a male. The applicant presents him 
with areca nuts, fruit, flowers, and money. The sooth- 
sayer bathes, and sits in front of his house smeared with 
black, white, red, and other colours. His wife, or some 
other female, kindles a fire, and throws frankincense into 
it. He beats his drum and sings, while a woman within 
repeats the chant in a shrill voice. The songs are in praise 
of the deity, at whose and the soothsayer's feet the 
applicant prostrates himself, and invokes their aid. The 
soothsayer feels inspired, and addresses the suppliant 
thus: — ''You have neglected me. You do not worship 
me. Propitiate me adequately, or ruin is yours." The 
future is predicted in song, and the rural folk place great 
faith in the predictions. 

As an example of devil worship and divination, the 
practice thereof by the Tamil Valaiyans and Kalians of 
Orattanadu in the Tanjore district is described as follows 
by Mr F. R. Hemingway.* 

" Valaiyan houses generally have an odiyan {Odina 
Wodier) tree in the backyard, wherein the devils are 
believed to live, and, among the Kalians, every street has 
a tree for their accommodation. They are propitiated at 
least once a year, the more virulent under the tree itself, and 
the rest in the house, generally on a Friday or Monday. 
Kalians attach importance to Friday in Adi (July and 

* " Gazetteer of the Tanjore District," 1906, i. 69. 


August), the cattle Pongal day in Tai (January and 
February), and Kartigai day in the month Kartigai 
(November and December). A man, with his mouth 
covered with a cloth to indicate silence and purity, cooks 
rice in the backyard, and pours it out in front of the tree, 
mixed with milk and jaggery (crude sugar). Cocoanuts 
and toddy are also placed there. These are offered to the 
devils, represented in the form of bricks or mud images 
placed at the foot of the tree, and camphor is set alight. 
A sheep is then brought and slaughtered, and the devils 
are supposed to spring one after another from the tree 
into one of the bystanders. This man then becomes filled 
with the divine afflatus, works himself up into a kind of 
frenzy, becomes the mouthpiece of the spirits, pronounces 
their satisfaction or the reverse at the offerings, and gives 
utterance to cryptic phrases, which are held to foretell good 
or evil fortune to those in answer to whom they are made. 
When all the devils in turn have spoken and vanished, the 
man recovers his senses. The devils are worshipped in 
the same way in the house, except that no blood is shed." 

The following example of the conviction of a thief by 
a diviner is recorded by Mrs Murray-Aynsley.* 

"A friend's ayah had her blanket stolen. The native 
woman rejected the interference of the police, which her 
mistress proposed, but said she would send for one of 
her own diviners. He came, caused a fire to be lighted 
in an earthen vessel, then took a small basket - work 
grain-sifter used for winnowing rice. Having repeated 
certain prayers or incantations, the diviner stuck a pair 
of scissors into the deepest part of this tray, and, having 
done this, required the two assistants he brought with him 
each to put a finger beneath the holes in the scissors, 
and then hold the sifter suspended over the fire. The 
servants of the house were then all required, each in 
turn, to take a small quantity of uncooked rice in their 

* "Our Tour in Southern India," 1883, 162-3. 


hands, and drop it into the flame, between the fork 
formed by the scissors, the diviner all the time repeating 
some formula. All went very smoothly till the woman- 
servant, whom my friend had all along suspected of the 
theft, performed this ceremony, on which the grain-sifter 
commenced turning round rapidly. The culprit was 
convicted, and confessed the theft." 

The following method of discovering theft by chewing 
rice is described by Daniel Johnson.* 

"A Brahmin is sent for, who writes down all the 
names of the people in the house, who are suspected. 
Next day he consecrates a piece of ground by covering 
it with cow-dung and water, over which he says a long 
prayer. The people then assemble on this spot in a 
line facing the Brahmin, who has with him some dry 
rice, of which he delivers to each person the weight of 
a four-cornered rupee, or that quantity weighed with the 
sacred stone called Salagram, which is deposited in a 
leaf of the pippal or banyan tree. At the time of deliver- 
ing it, the Brahmin puts his right hand on each person's 
head, and repeats a short prayer ; and, when finished, he 
directs them all to chew the rice, which at a given 
time must be produced on the leaves masticated. The 
person or persons, whose rice is not thoroughly masticated, 
or exhibits any blood on it, is considered guilty. The 
faith they all have of the power of the Brahmin, and a 
guilty conscience operating at the same time, suppresses 
the natural flow of saliva to the mouth, without which 
the hard particles of the rice bruise and cut the gums, 
causing them to bleed, which they themselves are sensible 
of, and in most instances confess the crime." 
* "Sketches of Field Sports Followed by the Natives of India," 1822. 



For the following note * on agricultural ceremonies in 
Malabar, I am indebted to Mr C. Karunakara Menon, 
who writes as an eye-witness thereof. 

''Vishu, the feast of the vernal equinox, is celebrated 
on the first of the Malabar month Medom, between the 
loth and 14th of April. To the Tamulians it is the 
New Year's day, but to the people of Malabar it marks 
the commencement of the new agricultural year. A 
Malabar proverb says * No hot weather after Vishu.' 
The first thing seen on the morning of Vishu day is 
considered as an omen for the whole year. Every 
Malayali takes care, therefore, to look at an auspicious 
object. Arrangements are accordingly made to have a 
kani, which means a sight or spectacle {see p. iS). After 
the first sight, the elders make presents of money to the 
junior members of the family and the servants. After the 
distribution of money, the most important function on 
Vishu morning is the laying of the spade-furrow, as a 
sign that cultivation operations have commenced. A 
spade decorated with konna {Cassia Fistula) flowers, is 
brought, and a portion of the yard on the north side 
smeared with cow - dung, and painted with powdered 
rice-water. An offering is made on the spot to Ganapathi 
(the elephant god), and a member of the family, turning 
to the east, cuts the earth three times. A ceremony on 
a grander scale is called the Chal, which literally means 

* The note was originally published in Madras Museum Bull.., 1906, 
v., No. 2, 98-105. 

289 T 


a furrow, for an account of which we must begin with 
the visit of the astrologer (Kanisan) on Vishu eve. Every 
desam (hamlet) in Malabar has its own astrologer, who 
visits families under his jurisdiction on festive occasions 
{see p. 275). Accordingly, on the eve of the new agricultural 
year, every Hindu home in the district is visited by the 
Kanisans of the respective desams, who, for a modest 
present of rice, vegetables, and oils, make a forecast of the 
season's prospects, which is engrossed on a cadjan (palm 
leaf). This is called the Vishu phalam, which is obtained 
by comparing the nativity with the equinox. Special 
mention is made therein as to the probable rainfall from 
the position of the planets — highly prized information 
in a district where there are no irrigation works or large 
reservoirs for water. But the most important item in 
the forecast is the day and time at which the first plough- 
ing is to take place. The Chal is one of the most 
impressive and solemn of the Malabar agricultural cere- 
monies, and, in its most orthodox form, is now prevalent 
only in the Palghat taluk. At the auspicious hour shown 
in the forecast, the master of the house, the cultivation 
agent, and the Cherumars,* assemble in the barn. A 
portion of the yard in front of the building is painted 
with rice-water, and a lighted bell-metal lamp is placed 
near at hand with some paddy (unhusked rice) and rice, 
and several cups made of the leaves of the kanniram 
{Strychnos Nux-vomica) — as many cups as there are 
varieties of seed in the barn. Then, placing implicit 
faith in his gods and ancestors, the master of the house 
opens the barn-door, followed by a Cheruman with a 
new painted basket containing the leaf cups. The master 
then takes a handful of seed from a seed-basket, and fills 
one of the cups, and the cultivating agent, head Cheruman, 
and others who are interested in a good harvest, fill the 
cups till the seeds are exhausted. The basket, with the 
cups, is next taken to the decorated portion of the yard. 

* The Cherumars are field labourers, who were formerly agrestic 
slaves, and, like other servile classes, possess special privileges on special 


A new ploughshare is fastened to a new plough, and a 
pair of cattle are brought onto the scene. Plough, cattle, 
and basket, are all painted with rice-water. A procession 
proceeds to the fields, on reaching which the head 
Cheruman lays down the basket, and makes a mound 
of earth with the spade. To this a little manure is added, 
and the master throws a handful of seed into it. The 
cattle are then yoked, and one turn is ploughed by the 
head Cheruman. Inside this at least seven furrows are 
made, and the plough is dropped to the right. An 
offering is made to Ganapathi, and the master throws 
some seed into the furrow. Next the head Cheruman 
calls out, ' May the gods on high, and the deceased 
ancestors, bless the seed which has been thrown broad- 
cast, and the cattle which are let loose, the mother and 
children of the house, the master and the slaves. May 
they also vouchsafe to us a good crop, good sunshine, 
and a good harvest.' A cocoanut is then cut on the 
ploughshare, and from the cut portions several deductions 
are made. If the hinder portion is larger than the front 
one, it augurs an excellent harvest. If the nut is cut 
into two equal portions, the harvest will be moderate. 
If the cut passes through the eyes of the nut, or if no 
water is left in the cut portions, certain misfortune is 
foreboded. The cut fragments are then taken with a 
little water inside them, and a leaf of the tulsi plant* 
(sacred basil, Ocimum sanctum) dropped in. If the leaf 
turns to the right, a propitious harvest is assured, whereas, 
if it turns to the left, certain calamity will follow. This 
ceremonial concluded, there is much shouting, and the 
names of all the gods are called out in a confused 
prayer. The party then breaks up, and the unused 
seeds are divided among the workmen. The actual 
sowing of the seed takes place towards the middle 
of May. The local deity who is responsible for good 

* The tulsi plant is the most sacred plant of the Hindus, by whom it 
is grown in pots, or in brick or earthen pillars (brindavanam) hollowed 
out at the top, in which earth is deposited. It is watered and worshipped 


crops is Cherukunnath Bhagavathi, who is also called 
Annapurana, and is worshipped in the Chirakkal taluk. 
Before the seed is sown, a small quantity is set apart 
as an offering to the goddess Annapurna Iswari. By 
July the crops should be ready for harvesting, and the 
previous year's stock is running low. Accordingly, 
several ceremonies are crowded into the month Karkitakam 
(July-August). When the sun passes from the sign of 
Gemini to Cancer, i.e.^ on the last day of Mithuna (June- 
July), a ceremony called the driving away of Potti (evil 
spirit) is performed in the evening. The house is 
cleaned, and the rubbish collected in an old winnowing 
basket. A woman rubs oil on her head, and, taking 
the basket, goes three times round the house, while 
children run after her, calling out, ' Potti, phoo ' (run 
away, evil spirit). On the following morning the good 
spirit is invoked, and asked to bless every householder, 
and give a good harvest. Before dawn a handful of 
veli, a wild yam {Caladmm nymphceiflorum), and turmeric, 
together with ten herbs called dasapushpam (ten flowers), 
such as are worn in the head by Nambutiri Brahman 
ladies after the morning bath, are brought in. They are: — 

Thiruthali {Ipomoea sepiarid). 

Nilappana {Czirculigo orchioides). 

Karuka {Cynodon Dactylon). 

Cherupoola {^rua lanatd). 

Muyalchevi {Emelia sonchifolid). 

Puvamkurunthala ( Vernonia cinered). 

Ulinna {Cardiospermum Halicacabuni). 

Mukutti {Biophytum sensitivuiJi), 

Kannunni {Eclipta alba). 

Krishnakananthi {Evolvtdus alsinoides). 
" Each of the above is believed to be the special favourite 
of some deity, e.g.^ Nilappana of the god of riches, 
Thiruthali of the wife of Kama, the god of love, etc. 
They are stuck in the front eaves of every house with 
some cow-dung. Then, before daybreak, Sri Bhagavathi 
is formally installed, and her symbolical presence is con- 


tinued daily till the end of the month Karkitakam. A 
plank, such as is used by Malayalis when they sit at 
meals, is well washed, and smeared with ashes. On it 
are placed a mirror, a potful of ointment made of sandal, 
camphor, musk, and saffron (turmeric), a small round 
box containing red paint, a goblet full of water, and 
a grandham (sacred book made of cadjan), usually Devi- 
Mahathmyam, i.e., song in praise of Bhagavathi. By 
its side the ten flowers are set. On the first day of 
Karkitakam, in some places, an attempt is made to 
convert the malignant Kali into a benificent deity. 
From Calicut northward, this ceremonial is celebrated, 
for the most part by children, on a grand scale. From 
early morning they may be seen collecting ribs of plantain 
(banana) leaves, with which they make representations 
of a ladder, cattle-shed, plough, and yoke. Representa- 
tions of cattle are made from the leaves of the jak tree 
{Ariocarpus integrifolid). These are placed in an old 
winnowing basket. The materials for a feast are placed 
in a pet, and the toy agricultural articles and the pot are 
carried round each house three times, while the children 
call out ' Kalia, Kalia, monster, monster, receive our 
offering, and give us plenty of seed and wages, protect 
our cattle, and support our fences.' The various articles 
are then placed under a jak tree, on the eastern side of 
the house if possible. The next important ceremony is 
called the Nira, or bringing in of the first-fruits. It is 
celebrated about the middle of Karkitakam. The house 
is cleaned, and the doors and windows are cleansed with 
the rough leaves of a tree called parakam {Ficus hispida), 
and decorated with white rice paint. The walls are white- 
washed, and the yard is smeared with cow-dung. The 
ten flowers (dasapushpam) are brought to the gate of the 
house, together with leaves of the following : — 

Athi {Ficus glomerata). Illi (tender leaves of bamboo). 

Ithi {Ficus infectorid). Nelli {Phyllanthus Emblicd). 

Arayal {Ficus religiosd). Jak {At'tocarpus integrifolid). 
Peral {Ficus bengalensis). Mango {Mangifera indicd). 


**On the morning of the ceremony, the priest of the 
local temple comes out therefrom, preceded by a man 
blowing" a conch {Tiirhinella rapa) shell.* This is a signal 
for the whole village, and every household sends out a 
male member, duly purified by a bath and copiously 
smeared with sacred ashes, to the fields, to gather some 
ears of paddy. Sometimes the paddy is brought from 
the temple, instead of the field. It is not necessary to 
pluck the paddy from one's own fields. Free permission 
is given to pluck it from any field in which it may be 
ripe. When the paddy is brought near the house, the 
above said leaves are taken out from the gate-house, 
where they had been kept over night, and the ears of 
paddy are laid thereon. The bearer is met at the gate 
by a woman of the house with a lighted lamp. The new 
paddy is then carried to the house in procession, those 
assembled crying out ' Fill, fill ; increase, increase ; fill 
the house ; fill the baskets ; fill the stomachs of the 
children.' In a portion of the verandah, which is 
decorated with rice paint, a small plank, with a plantain 
leaf on it, is set. Round this the man who bears the 
paddy goes three times, and, turning due east, places it 
on the leaf. On the right is set the lighted lamp. An 
offering of cocoanuts and sweets is made to Ganapathi, 
and the leaves and ears of paddy are attached to various 
parts of the house, the agricultural implements, and even 
to trees. A sumptuous repast brings the ceremony to 
a close. At Palghat, when the new paddy is carried in 
procession, the people say ' Fill like the Kottaram in 
Kozhalmannam ; fill like the expansive sands of the 
Perar.' This Kottaram is eight miles west of Palghat. 
According to Dr Gundest, the word means a store- 
house, or place where temple affairs are managed. It 
is a ruined building with crumbling walls, lined inside 
with laterite, and outside with slabs of granite. It was 
the granary of the Maruthur temple adjoining it, and, 

* The sacred conch or chank shell is used as a musical instrument 
in processions, and during religious services at Hindu temples. 


the story goes that the supply in this granary was 

"The next ceremony of importance is called Puthari 
(meal of new rice). In some places it takes place on 
Nira day, but, as a rule, it is an independent festival, 
which takes place during the great national festival 
Onam in August. When the new rice crop has been 
threshed, a day is fixed for the ceremony. Those who 
have no land under cultivation simply add some grains 
of the new rice to their meal. An indispensable curry 
on this day is made of the leaves of Cassia Tora, peas, 
the fruit of puthari chundanga {Swertia Chirata)^ brinjals 
{Solanum Melongena), and green pumpkins. The first 
crop is now harvested. There are no special ceremonies 
connected with the cultivation of the second crop, except 
the one called Chettotakam in the month of Thulam 
(November), which is observed in the Palghat taluk. It 
is an offering made to the gods, when the transplantation 
is completed, to wipe out the sin the labourers may have 
committed by unwittingly killing the insects and reptiles 
concealed in the earth. The god, whose protection is 
invoked on this occasion, is called Muni. No barn is 
complete without its own Muni, who is generally repre- 
sented by a block of granite beneath a tree. He is the 
protector of cattle and field labourers, and arrack (liquor), 
toddy, and blood, form necessary ingredients for his 

"In well-to-do families, a goat is sacrificed to him, but 
the poorer classes satisfy him with the blood of a fowl. 
The officiating priest is generally the cultivation agent, 
who is a Nayar, or sometimes a Cheruman. The goat 
or fowl is brought before the god, and a mixture of 
turmeric and chunam (lime) sprinkled over it. If the 
animal shakes, it is a sign that the god is satisfied. If 
it does not, the difficulty is got over by a very liberal 
interpretation of the smallest movement of the animal, 
and a further application of the mixture. The god who 
ensures sunshine and good weather is Mullan. He is 


a rural deity, and is set up on the borders and ridges 
of the rice-fields. Like Muni, he is propitiated by the 
sacrifice of a fowl. The second crop is harvested in 
Makaram (end of January), and a festival called Ucharal 
is observed from the twenty-eighth to the thirtieth in 
honour of the menstruation of mother earth, which is 
believed to take place on those days, which are observed 
as days of abstinence from all work, except hunting. 
A complete holiday is given to the Cherumans. The 
first day is called the closing of ucharal. Towards even- 
ing some thorns, five or six broomsticks, and ashes, are 
taken to the room in which the grain is stored. The door 
is closed, and the thorns and sticks are placed against 
it, or fixed to it with cow-dung. The ashes are spread 
before it, and, during that and the following day, no one 
will open the door. On the second day, cessation from 
work is scrupulously observed. The house may not be 
cleaned, and the daily smearing of the floor with cow- 
dung is avoided. Even gardens may not be watered. 
On the fourth day the ucharal is opened, and a basketful 
of dry leaves is taken to the fields, and burnt with a 
little manure. The Uchara days are the quarter days 
of Malabar, and demands for surrender of property may 
be made only on the day following the festival, when 
all agricultural leases expire. By the burning of leaves 
and manure on his estate, the cultivator, it seems to me, 
proclaims that he remains in possession of the property. 
In support of this, we have the practice of a new lessee 
asking the lessor whether any other person has burnt 
dry leaves in the field. The Ucharal festival is also held 
at Cherupulcherri, and at Kanayam near Shoranur. Large 
crowds assemble with representations of cattle in straw, 
which are taken in procession to the temple of Bhagavathi 
with beating of drums and the shouting of the crowd." 

The fact that the Cherumans, who are agrestic serfs, 
play a leading part in some of the festivals which have 
just been described, is significant. In an interesting note 


on the privileges of the servile classes, Mr M. J. Walhouse 
writes* that ''it is well known that the servile castes in 
Southern India once held far higher positions, and were 
indeed masters of the land on the arrival of the Brahmanical 
race. Many curious vestiges of their ancient power still 
survive in the shape of certain privileges, which are 
jealously cherished, and, their origin being forgotten, 
are much misunderstood. These privileges are remark- 
able instances of survivals from an extinct state of society 
— shadows of long-departed supremacy, bearing witness 
to a period when the present haughty high-caste races 
were suppliants before the ancestors of degraded classes, 
whose touch is now regarded as pollution. In the great 
festival of Siva at Trivalur in Tanjore, the headman of 
the Pareyans is mounted on the elephant with the god, 
and carries his chauri (yak-tail fly fan). In Madras, at 
the annual festival of the goddess of the Black Town 
(now George Town f ), when a tali (marriage badge) is 
tied round the neck of the idol in the name of the entire 
community, a Pareyan is chosen to represent the bride- 
groom. At Melkote in Mysore, the chief seat of the 
followers of Ramanuja Acharya, and at the Brahman 
temple at Belur, the Holeyas or Pareyans have the right 
of entering the temple on three days in the year, specially 
set apart for them." 

The privilege is said to have been conferred on the 
Holeyas, in return for their helping Ramanuja to recover 
the image of Krishna, which was carried off to Delhi by 
the Muhammadans. Paraiyans are allowed to take part 
in pulling the cars of the idols in the great festivals at 
Conjeeveram, Kumbakonam, and Srivilliputtur. Their 

* "Ind. Ant," 1873, iii. 191. 

t The name Black Town was changed to George Town, to com- 
memorate the visit of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales to Madras in 1906. 


touch is not reckoned to defile the ropes used, so that 
other Hindus will pull with them. It was noted by Mr 
F. H. Ellis, who was Collector of the Madras district 
in 1812, that *'a custom prevails among the slave castes 
in Tondeimandalam, especially in the neighbourhood of 
Madras, which may be considered as a periodical assertion 
of independence at the close of the Tamil month Auni, with 
which the revenue year ends, and the cultivation of the 
ensuing year ought to commence. The whole of the 
slaves strike work, collect in bodies outside of the villages, 
and so remain until their masters, by promising to continue 
their privileges, by solicitations, presents of betel, and 
other gentle means, induce them to return. The slaves 
on these occasions, however well treated they may have 
been, complain of various grievances, real and imaginary, 
and threaten a general desertion. This threat, however, 
they never carry into execution, but, after the usual time, 
everything having been conducted according to mamul 
(custom), return quietly to their labours." 

Coming to more recent times, it is recorded by Mr 
Walhouse * that "at particular seasons there is a festival 
much resembling the classic Saturnalia, in which, for the 
time, the relation of slaves and masters is inverted, and 
the former attack the latter with unstinted satire and abuse, 
and threaten to strike work unless confirmed in their 
privileges, and humbly solicit to return to labour." 

In villages in South Canara there are certain rakshasas 
(demons), called Kambla Asura, who preside over the 
fields. To propitiate them, buffalo races, f which are an 
exciting form of sport, are held, usually in October and 
November, before the second or sugge crop is sown. It 

* Journ. Anthrop. Inst., 1874, iv. 371. 

t Buffalo races, see my " Castes and Tribes of Southern India," 1909, 
i. 157-62. / 


is believed that, if the races are omitted, there will be a 
failure of the crop. The Koragas (field labourers) sit 
up through the night before the Kambla day, performing 
a ceremony called panikkuluni, or sitting under the dew. 
They sing songs to the accompaniment of a band about 
their devil Nicha, and offer toddy and a rice pudding 
boiled in a large earthen pot, which is broken so that 
the pudding remains as a solid mass. This pudding is 
called kandel adde, or pot pudding. On the morning 
of the races, the Holeyas (agrestic serfs) scatter manure 
over the field, in which the races are to take place, and 
plough it. On the following day, the seedlings are 
planted. To propitiate various demons, the days follow- 
ing the races are devoted to cock-fighting, in which 
hundreds of birds may take part. 

Important agricultural ceremonies are performed by 
the Badagas of the Nilgiris, who carry out most of the 
cultivation on these hills, at the time of sowing and 
harvesting the crop. The seed-sowing ceremony takes 
place in March, and, in some places, a Kurumba G^ngle 
tribesman) plays an important part in it. On an 
auspicious day — a Tuesday before the crescent moon — 
a priest of the Devve temple sets out several hours 
before dawn with five or seven kinds of grain in a basket 
and a sickle, accompanied by a Kurumba, and leading 
a pair of bullocks with a plough. On reaching the field 
selected, the priest pours the grain into the cloth of the 
Kurumba, and, yoking the animals to the plough, makes 
three furrows in the soil. The Kurumba, stopping the 
bullocks, kneels on the ground between the furrows, 
facing east. Removing his turban, he places it on the 
ground, and, closing his ears with his palms, bawls out 
"Dho, Dho" thrice. He then rises, and scatters the 
grain thrice on the soil. The priest and Kurumba then 


return to the village, and the former deposits what remains 
of the grain in the store-room. A new pot, full of water, 
is placed in the milk-house, and the priest dips his right 
hand therein, saying " Nerathubitta " (it is full). This 
ceremony is an important one, as, until it has been 
performed, sowing may not commence. It is a day of 
feasting, and, in addition to rice, Dolichos Lablab is 

Another agricultural ceremony of the Badagas is called 
Devva habba or tenai {Setai'ta italicd)^ and is usually 
celebrated in June or July, always on a Monday. It is 
apparently performed in honour of the gods Mahalinga- 
swami and Hiriya Udaya, to whom a group of villages 
will have temples dedicated. The festival is celebrated 
at one place, whither the Badagas from other villages pro- 
ceed, to take part in it. About midday, some Badagas and 
the temple priest go from the temple of Hiriya Udaya 
to that of Mahalingaswami. The procession is usually 
headed by a Kurumba, who scatters fragments of tud 
{Meliosma pungens) bark and wood as he goes on his 
way. The priest takes with him the materials necessary 
for performing worship, and, after worshipping Maha- 
lingaswami, the party return to the Hiriya Udaya temple, 
where milk and cooked rice are offered to the various 
gods within the temple precincts. On the following day, 
all assemble at the temple, and a Kurumba brings a 
few sheaves of Setaria italzca, and ties them to a stone 
set up at the main entrance. After this, worship is done, 
and the people offer cocoanuts to the god. Later on, all 
the women of the Madhave sept, who have given birth 
to a first-born child, come, dressed up in holiday attire, 
with their babies, to the temple. On this day they wear a 
special nose ornament called elemukkuththi, which is only 
worn on one other occasion, at the funeral of a husband. 


The women worship Hiriya Udaya, and the priest gives 
them a small quantity of rice on minige {Argyreia) leaves. 
After eating this, they wash their hands with water given 
to them by the priest, and leave the temple in a line. 
As soon as the Devve festival is concluded, the reaping 
of the crop commences, and a measure or two of grain 
gathered on the first day is set apart for the Mahalinga- 
swami temple. 

By the Kotas (artisans and cultivators) of the Nilgiris, 
a seed-sowing ceremony is celebrated in the month of 
Kumbam (February-March) on a Tuesday or Friday. 
For eight days the officiating priest abstains from meat, 
and lives on vegetable diet, and may not communicate 
directly with his wife for fear of pollution, a boy acting 
as spokesman. On the Sunday before the ceremony, a 
number of cows are penned in a kraal, and milked by 
the priest. The milk is preserved, and, if the omens are 
favourable, is said not to turn sour. If it does, this is 
attributed to the priest being under pollution from some 
cause or other. On the day of the ceremony, the priest 
bathes in a stream, and proceeds, accompanied by a 
boy, to a field or the forest. After worshipping the gods, 
he makes a small seed-pan in the ground, and sows 
therein a small quantity of ragi {Eleusine Coracand), 
Meanwhile, the Kotas of the village go to the temple, 
and clean it. Thither the priest and the boy proceed, 
and the deity is worshipped with offerings of cocoanuts, 
betel, flowers, etc. Sometimes a Terkaran (priest) 
becomes inspired, and gives expression to oracular utter- 
ances. From the temple all go to the house of the 
priest, who gives them a small quantity of milk and 
food. Three months later, on an auspicious day, the 
reaping of the crop is commenced with a very similar 


Writing in 1832, Mr Harkness states* that, during 
the seed -sowing ceremony, "offerings are made at the 
temples, and, on the day of the full-moon, after the whole 
have partaken of a feast, the blacksmith, and the gold 
and silversmith, constructing separately a forge and 
furnace within the temple, each makes something in the 
way of his vocation, the blacksmith a chopper or axe, 
the silversmith a ring or other kind of ornament." 

In connection with the ceremonial observances of the 
Koyis of the Godavari district, the Rev. J. Cain writes f 
that "at present the Koyis around Dummagudem have 
very few festivals, except one at the harvest of the zonna 
{Sorghum vidgare). Formerly they had one not only for 
every grain crop, but one when the ippa % {Bassid) flowers 
were ready to be gathered, another when the pumpkins 
were ripe, at the first tapping of the palm-tree for toddy, 
etc. Now, at the time the zonna crop is ripe and ready to 
be cut, they take a fowl into the field, kill it, and sprinkle 
its blood on any ordinary stone put up for the occasion, 
after which they are at liberty to partake of the new crop. 
In many villages they would refuse to eat with any Koi 
who has neglected this ceremony, to which they give the 
name Kottalu, which word is evidently derived from the 
Telugu word kotta (new). Rice-straw cords are hung on 
trees, to show that the feast has been observed. [In some 
places, Mr Hemingway tells me, the victim is a sheep, and 
the first-fruits are offered to the local gods and the 
ancestors.] Another singular feast occurs soon after the 
cholam (zonna) crop has been harvested. Early on the 
morning of that day, all the men of each village have 
to turn out into the forest to hunt, and woe betide the 

* "A Singular Aboriginal Race of the Nilagiris," 1832, 76. 

t "Ind. Ant." 1879, viii. 34. 

X Liquor is distilled from ippa flowers. ^ 


unlucky individual who does not bring home some game, 
be it only a bird or a mouse. All the women rush after 
him with cow-dung, mud, or dirt, and pelt him out of their 
village, and he does not appear again in that village till 
next morning. The hunter who has been most successful 
then parades the village with his game, and receives 
presents of paddy (rice) from every house. Mr Vanstavern, 
whilst boring for coal at Beddanolu, was visited by all the 
Koi women of the village, dressed up in their lord's clothes, 
and they told him that they had that morning driven their 
husbands to the forest, to bring home game of some kind 
or other." 

Mr N. E. Marjoribanks once witnessed a grossly 
indecent pantomime, held in connection with this festival, 
which is called Bhudevi Panduga, or festival of the earth 
goddess. The performers were women, of whom the 
drummers and sword-bearers were dressed up as men. 
In a note on this festival, Mr F. R. Hemingway writes that 
*'when the samalu crop is ripe, the Kois summon the 
pujari on a previously appointed day, and collect from 
every house in the village a fowl and a handful of grain. 
The pujari has to fast all that night, and bathe early the 
next morning. After bathing, he kills the fowls gathered 
the previous evening in the names of the favourite gods, 
and fastens an ear of samalu to each house, and then a feast 
follows. In the evening they cook some of the new grain, 
and kill fresh fowls, which have not to be curried but 
roasted, and the heart, liver, and lights of which are set 
apart as the especial food of their ancestral spirits, and 
eaten by every member of each household in their name. 
The bean feast is an important one, as, until it is held, no 
one is allowed to gather any beans. On the second day 
before the feast, the village pujari must eat only bread. 
The day before, he must fast for the whole twenty-four 


hours, and, on the day of the feast, he must eat only rice 
cooked in milk, with the bird offered in sacrifice. All the 
men of the village accompany the pujari to a neighbour- 
ing tree, which must be a Terminalia tomentosa, and set 
up a stone, which they thus dedicate to the goddess 
Kodalamma. Every one is bound to bring for the pujari 
a good hen and a seer of rice, and for himself a cock and 
half a seer of rice. The pujari also demands from them 
two annas as his sacrificing fee." 

Seed-drills used by agriculturists in the Bellary district 
are ornamented with carved representations of the sacred 
bull Nandi, the monkey-god Hanuman, and the lingam, 
and decorated with margosa {Melia Azadirachtd) leaves, to 
bring good luck. 



Among the Kalyana Singapu Kondhs of Vizagapatam, 
a rain-making ceremony called barmarakshasi is per- 
formed, which consists in making life-size mud images 
of women seated on the ground, holding grindstones 
between their knees, and offering sacrifices to them.* 

In times of drought, the Koyis of the Godavari district 
hold a festival to Bhima, one of the Pandava brothers 
from whom they claim descent, and, when rain falls, 
sacrifice a cow or a pig to him. It is said f to be con- 
sidered very efficacious if the Brahmans take in procession 
round the village an image of Varuna (the god of rain) 
made of mud from the bed of a river or tank. Another 
method is to pour a thousand pots of water over the 
lingam in the Siva temple. Malas (Telugu Pariahs) 
tie a live frog to a mortar, and put on the top thereof 
a mud figure representing the deity Gontiyalamma. 
They then take these objects in procession, singing 
" Mother frog, playing in water, pour rain by pots- 
full." The villagers of other castes then come and 
pour water over the Malas. 

The Rev. S. Nicholson informs me that, to produce 
rain in the Telugu country, two boys capture a frog, 

* " Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam District," 1907, i. y^. 
t " Gazetteer of the Godavari District," 1907, i. 47. 

305 u 


and put it into a basket with some nim (margosa, Melia 
Azadirachtd) leaves. They tie the basket to the middle 
of a stick, which they support on their shoulders. In 
this manner, they make a circuit of the village, visit- 
ing every house, singing the praises of the god of rain. 
The greater the noise the captive animal makes, the 
better the omen, and the more gain for the boys, for 
at every house they receive something in recognition of 
their endeavours to bring rain upon the village fields. 

"In the Bellary district when the rain fails, the 
Kapu (Telugu cultivator) females catch a frog, and 
tie it alive to a new winnowing fan made of bamboo. 
On this fan, leaving the frog visible, they spread a few 
margosa leaves, and go singing from door to door, 
* Lady frog must have her bath ; oh ! rain god, give at 
least a little water for her.' This means that the drought 
has reached such a stage that there is not even a drop 
of water for the frogs. When the Kapu female sings 
this song, the woman of the house brings a little water 
in a vessel, pours it over the frog, which is left on the 
fan outside the door sill, and gives some alms. She is 
satisfied that such an action will bring down rain in 
torrents. On the first full-moon day in the month of 
Bhadrapada (September), the agricultural population in 
the Bellary district celebrate a festival called Jokumara, 
to appease the rain-god. The Barike women (said to 
belong to the Gaurimakkalu section of the Kabbera caste) 
go round the village in which they live, with a basket 
on their heads containing margosa leaves, flowers of 
various kinds, and sacred ashes. They beg for alms, 
especially from the cultivating classes, and, in return for 
the alms bestowed (usually grain or food), they give 
some of the leaves, flowers, and ashes. The cultivators 
take these to their fields, prepare cholam {Sorghum) kanji 
or gruel, mix them with it, and sprinkle the kanji over 
their fields. After this the cultivator proceeds to the 


potter's kiln in the village, and fetches ashes from it, 
with which he makes the figure of a human being. This 
figure is placed in a field, and called Jokumara or rain- 
god, and is supposed to have the power of bringing down 
the rain in due season. A second kind of Jokumara 
worship is called muddam, or the outlining of rude repre- 
sentations of human figures with powdered charcoal. 
These are made in the early morning, before the bustle 
of the day commences, on the ground at cross-roads, 
and along thoroughfares. The Barikes, who draw these 
figures, are paid a small remuneration in money or kind. 
The figures represent Jokumara, who will bring down 
rain, when insulted by people treading on him. Yet 
another kind of Jokumara worship prevails in the Bellary 
district. When rain fails, the Kapu females model a 
small figure of a naked human being, which they place 
in a miniature palanquin, and go from door to door, 
singing indecent songs, and collecting alms. They 
continue this procession for three or four days, and then 
abandon the figure in a field adjacent to the village. The 
Malas take possession of the abandoned Jokumara, and, 
in their turn, go about singing indecent songs, and 
collecting alms for three or four days, and then throw 
the figure away in some jungle. This form of Jokumara 
worship is also believed to bring down plenty of rain. 
In the Bellary district, the agriculturists have a curious 
superstition about prophesying the state of the coming 
season. The village of Mailar contains a Siva temple, 
which is famous throughout the district for an annual 
festival held there in the month of February. This festival 
has now dwindled into more or less a cattle fair. But the 
fame of the temple continues as regards the Karanika, 
which is a cryptic sentence uttered by the priest, containing 
a prophecy of the prospects of the agricultural season. 
The pujari (priest) of the temple is a Kuruba (cultivating 
caste). The feast at the temple lasts for ten days. On 
the last day, the god Siva is represented as returning 
victorious from the battlefield, after having slain the 


demon Malla (Mallasura) with a huge bow. He is met 
half-way from the field of battle by the goddess. The 
wooden bow is placed on end before the god. The 
Kuruba priest climbs up it, as it is held by two assistants, 
and then gets on their shoulders. In this posture he 
stands rapt in silence for a few minutes, looking in 
several directions. He then begins to quake and quiver 
from head to foot. This is the sign of the spirit of the 
god Siva possessing him. A solemn silence holds the 
assembly, for the time of the Karanika has arrived. The 
shivering Kuruba utters a cryptic sentence, such as 
'Thunder struck the sky.' This is at once copied down, 
and interpreted as a prophecy that there will be much 
rain in the year to come."* 

It is said that, in the year before the Mutiny, the 
prophecy was ''They have risen against the white-ants." 

The villagers at Kanuparti in the Guntur district of 
the Telugu country objected, in 1906, to the removal of 
certain figures of the sacred bull Nandi and lingams, 
which were scattered about the fields, on the ground that 
the rainfall would cease, if these sacred objects were taken 

To bring down rain, Brahmans, and those non- 
Brahmans who copy their ceremonial rites, have their 
Varuna japam, or prayers to Varuna, the rain-god. Some 
of the lower classes, instead of addressing their prayers 
to Varuna, try to induce a spirit or devata named 
Kodumpavi (wicked one) to send her paramour Sukra to 
the affected area. The belief seems to be that Sukra goes 
away to his concubinage for about six months, and, if 
he does not then return, drought ensues. The ceremony 
consists in making a huge figure of Kodumpavi in clay, 
which is placed on a cart, and dragged through the streets 

♦ Madras Mail, 4th November, 1905. 


for seven to ten days. On the last day, the final death 
ceremonies of the figure are celebrated. It is disfigured, 
especially in those parts which are usually concealed. 
Vettiyans (Paraiyan grave-diggers), who have been 
shaved, accompany the figure, and perform the funeral 
ceremonies. This procedure is believed to put Kodumpavi 
to shame, and to get her to induce Sukra to return, and 
stay the drought. According to Mr W. Francis,* the 
figure, which is made of clay or straw, is dragged feet 
first through the village by the Paraiyans, who accompany 
it, wailing as though they were at a funeral, and beating 
drums in funeral time. 

I am informed by Mr F. R. Hemingway that, when 
rain is wanted in the Trichinopoly district, an effigy 
called Koman (the king) is dragged round the streets, 
and its funeral performed with great attention to details. 
Or an effigy of Kodumpavi is treated with contumely. 
In some places, the women collect kanji (rice gruel) from 
door to door, and drink it, or throw it away on a tank 
bund (embankment), wailing the while as they do at 
funerals. People of the higher castes repeat prayers to 
Varuna, and read portions of the Virata Parvam in the 
Mahabharata, in the hope that the land will be as fertile 
as the country of the Virats, where the Pandavas lived. 
When the tanks and rivers threaten to breach their banks, 
men stand naked on the bund, and beat drums ; and, if 
too much rain falls, naked men point firebrands at the sky. 
Their nudity is supposed to shock the powers that bring 
the rain, and arrest their further progress. According to 
Mr Francis, t when too much rain falls, the way to stop 
it is to send the eldest son to stand in it stark naked, with 
a torch in his hand. 

* "Gazetteer of the South Aicot District," 1906, i. 94. 
t Ibid. 


A Native of Coimbatore wrote a few years ago that 
we have done all things possible to please the gods. We 
spent about two hundred rupees in performing Varuna 
japam on a grand scale in a strictly orthodox fashion. 
For a few days there were cold winds, and some lightning. 
But, alas, the japam was over, and with that disappeared 
all signs of getting any showers in the near future. It 
is noted by Haddon * that, in the Torres Straits, as else- 
where, the impossible is never attempted, and a rain 
charm would not be made when there was no expecta- 
tion of rain coming, or during the wrong season. 

There is, in some parts of the country, a belief that, 
if lepers are buried when they die, rain will not visit the 
locality where their corpses have been deposited. So they 
disinter the bodies, and throw the remains thereof into the 
river, or burn them. Some years ago, a man who was sup- 
posed to be a leper died, and was buried. His skeleton 
was disinterred, put into a basket, and hung to a tree with 
a garland of flowers round its neck. The Superintendent 
of Police, coming across it, ordered it to be disposed of. 

The following quaint superstitions relating to the 
origin of rain are recorded by Mr Gopal Panikkar.f 

"In the regions above the earth, there are supposed 
to exist large monsters called Kalameghathanmar, to 
whom is assigned the responsibility of supplying the 
earth with water. These monsters are under the direction 
and control of Indra,J and are possessed of enormous 
physical strength. They have two huge horns projecting 
upwards from the sides of the crown of the head, large 
flashing eyes, and other remarkable features. All the 

* " Magic and Fetishism " (Religions ancient and modern), 1906, 62. 
t "Malabar and its Folk," Madras, 2nd ed., 63-4. 
J Indra presides over the seasons and crops, and is therefore 
worshipped at times of sowing and reaping. 


summer they are engaged in drawing up water from the 
earth through their mouths, which they spit out to produce 
rain in the rainy season. A still ruder imagination 
ascribes rain to the periodical discharge of urine by these 
monsters. Hence, in some quarters, there exists a peculiar 
aversion to the use of rain-water for human consumption." 


Abkari (liquor) license, used as 

medicine, 187 
Adultery, 51, 254 
Agricultural ceremonies, 60, 279, 289- 


Aiyanar, 56, 154, 166-7 

Alagarswami, 169 

Alangium Laviarckii, magic oil, 228 

Albino crow, 69 

Ahtonia scholaris, sorcery figure, 249 

Amputation of finger, 241 

Ancestor, 51, 56, 68, 290, 291, 302, 303 

Animal sacrifice, 14, 15, 22, 33, 37, 38, 
41. 5S> 57, 65, 68, 69, 75, 82, 92, 1 19, 
136, 137, 146, 148, 149, 150, 152, 
156, 165, 171, 175, 177, 183, 187, 
201, 205-7, 210, 211, 212, 213, 214, 
217, 245, 246, 248, 249, 252, 253, 
263, 267, 279, 282, 284, 287, 295, 
296, 302, 303 

Animals, form assumed by human 
beings, 226, 228, 260-2 

Ant, 93, 105, 308 

Ant-hill, 36, 129, 132, 133-6, 156, 
187, 253 

Antelope (black-buck), 82 

Araikasu Nachiyar, 170 

Aranai (lizard) 99 

Aravan or Kuttandar, festival, 152-3 

Areca nut, 20-1, 31, 49, 68, 283, 286 

palm {Areca Catechu)^ 130, 177 

Arjuna, 19, 126, 152 

Arka {Calotropis gigantea), 51-2, 53, 
68, 186, 195 ; marriage, 51 

Arrack, 236, 242, 245, 251, 253, 295 

vendors, superstition, 32 

Ashes, ceremonial use, 21, 45, 115, 138, 
186, 220, 229, 293, 296 ; efiigies, 44, 
307 ; from burial ground, 242 ; of 
meriah victim, 204; omens, 16, 18; 
sacred, 103, 182, 212, 270-1, 294, 

Astrologer, 45, 127 ; Kaniyan, 273-7 

Avaram (Cassia auriculata), clothing 
tied to, 156 

Ayilyam festival, 125 

Ayudha puja (worship of tools and 
implements), 174-5 

Babul (Acacia arabica), 153, 155 
Badaga, 14, 35, 49, 85, 116, 141, 232-4, 

Bael or bilva (^^gle Marmelos), 33, 

184, 277 
Bairagi, 235, 258-9 
Bakuda, 81 

Balanites Roxbiirghii, in lying - in 

chamber, 53 
Balija, 118, 159 
Bamboo, 113, 114, 148, 192, 212, 229, 

260, 265, 293 
Bangle insect, 107-8 
offered to cholera god, 176; to 

village goddess, 155 ; worn as vow, 

Banyan (Ficus bengalensis), I'j'j, 219, 

Barike, 306, 307 
Basavi, 47, 142-3 
Bathing, ceremonial, 29, 31, 43, 51, 55, 

67, 72, 81, 104, 117, 130, 135, 150, 

185, 229, 252, 285, 286, 294, 301, 303 
Bats, 83 

Bauhinia variegata, 118,229 

Bauri or Bawariya, 41 

Bead necklets offered to cholera god, 

Beads worn as vow, 138 
Bear, 78, 189 

Bedar, 68, 136, 142, 171, 193 
Bejjo sorcerer, 32 
Beju sorceress, 263 
Bells tied on trees, 154 
Bepari, 74 
Bestha, 98, 102 
Betel, 20-1, 31, 32, 39, 40, 47, 49, 68, 

117, 118, 147, 177, 188, 244, 249, 

270, 277, 283, 298, 301 

insect (vettila poochi), 106-7 

Bhadrakali, 114, 185 

Bhagavati, 128, 250, 278, 292, 296 

Bhairava, the dog-god, 196 

Bhuthas, 162, 242 

Bilimagga, 118 

Billaikavus (cat-eaters), 77 

Bird excrement, fouling by, 34, 67, 87 

superstitions, 86-9 




Birds, omens, 15, 16, 21, 23, 34, 36, 

37, 50, 56, 65-70, 280 

Birth, symbolical, from cow, 79-80 

Bison, 81-2 

Black buffalo, 45 ; cloth, 31, 112 ; face 
painted, 116; fowl, 284; goat, 45, 
267, 284; pig, 284; rope, in; 
sheep, 52, 191 ; thread, 220 ; wool, 

Blood, human, a cure for fever, 239 ; 
offered to idol, 221 ; sacrificed victim, 
201, 202, 207, 221 ; sprinkling with, 
145 ; sucked by witch, 261, 262 

of bullock, So ; devil-dancer, 212 ; 

fish, 102 ; monkey, 73 

of sacrificed animals, 22, 33, 37, 

38, 65, 68, 69, 119, 175, 183, 187, 
189, 212, 245, 246, 252, 255, 263, 
282, 284, 295, 302 

Blood-sucker (lizard), 99-100 

Boar, wild, 189 

Boddu-rayi (navel-stone), 60, 211 

Bones burnt in lying-in chamber, 53 ; 

from burial-ground in sorcery, 242 ; 

omens, 56, 57 ; used by toddy- 
drawers, 76, 82 
Bottling evil spirits, 250 
Boundary ceremony, 60, 175 ; dispute, 

38 ; flesh of victim interred, 201 ; 

goddess, 37-8, 184; oath, 36; 

sacrifice, 211, 263 
stone, birth ceremony, 176-7 ; 

reverence, 184 ; sacrifice, 37 
Bow and arrow in magic, 33, 100, 192, 

226, 244, 263 

in rain-making ceremony, 308 

Boya, 22, so, 135 

Brahman, 15, 17, 22, 26, 27, 28, 31, 

43> 45. 50, 51, 52, 58, 59> 66, 67, 

68, 79-80, 90, 102, 119, 122, 123, 

124, 125, 133, 135, 139, 140, 148, 

157, 170, 174, 239, 288, 297 

, Konkani, 172 

, Nambutiri, 85, 192, 193, 239, 


, Shivalli, 136 

Brahmani bull, 63 ; mock marriage, 


kite, 65, 86 

lizard (aranai), 99 

Branding of body, 146 

Brinjal {Solatium tnelongcna), 295 

Broom, 16, 40, 115, 244, 296 

Budubudukala, 280-2 

Buffalo, 45, 76, 81, 202, 263 ; sacrifice, 

22, 38, 137, 148, 201, 205, 206-7, 


races, 114, 298 

Bug, 105 
Bull, omen, 21 

Burial jars, prehistoric, supposed to 
contain sacrificed virgins, 216 

, mock, 211-3 

of charm, 181, 186, 187, 229, 

246, 252 ; of fowl with corpse, 69 ; 
of placenta, 55 ; of sorcery figure, 

247, 249 

Butea frondosa, leaf-cup, 33 
Butter, 79, 116, 185, 213. 5<;<; Ghl 

Cakes at village festival, 282 ; in 

pregnancy ceremony, 54 ; waved 

against evil eye, 116-7 
Camphor, 50, 115, 117, 177, 184, 229, 

244, 245, 249, 260, 278, 284, 285, 

287, 293 
Canthium parviflorum, thorn, 252 
Cassia Fistula, 18, 289 
Castor-oil, 97, 105, 116, 185, 258 
Cat, 17, 57, 77, 260, 261 
Cattle, 44, 60, 62-5, 79, 139-40, 210, 

211, 291, 296; sickness, 77, 154, 

165, 183, 184, 209 
Caves as shrines, 178 
Chameleon, 99, 240 
Charcoal, 22, 119, 176, 185, 244, 286, 

Charm cylinder, 113, 185, 187, 188, 

189, 192-5, 219 
Charms used by servants of Europeans, 

Chauri (yak-tail fan), 297 
Chedipe sorceress, 261-2 
Chenchu, 194 

Cheruman, 121, 290, 291, 295, 296 
Childbirth, 53, 54, 77, 79, 176-7, 

186, 189, 191, 193, 196 
Chillies, 22, 115, 116, 119, 243, 253 
Cholam {Sorghttm), 60, 302, 306 
Cholera, 36, 83, 98, 119, 148, 166, 

175, 176, 183, 184, 236, 259, 263, 

Chunam, 21, 22, 31, 44, 106, 113, 114, 

117, 170, 212, 244, 246, 295 
Clay bangles offered to deity, 176; 

effigies, 148, 247, 308-9; figures, 

offerings, 14, 162, 166-8 
Cobra, 20, 25, 86, 91, 93, 95, 98, 99, 

123, 133, 134, 135 
Cochlospermum Gossypium (silk- 
cotton), 36 
Cock-fighting, 299 
Cocoanut, 18, i^,, 39, 50, 55, 78, 83, 

96, 97, 105, 117, 119, 122, 124, 125, 

130, 131, 13s. 136, 139, 146, 150, 

160, 176, 177, 178, 183, 184, 185, 

212, 215, 227, 229, 242, 244, 245, 

248, 249, 253, 284, 287, 291, 294, 
300, 301 
Coffer-fish {Oslracion), 80 



Coins, medicine, 196 ; offerings, 104, 
168-71, 176, 178, 179, 244; omen, 
46 ; on magic square, 33 ; on navel, 
55 ; put in sacred fire, 185 ; repre- 
senting deity, 170; tied to marriage 
cloth, 49 ; to ward off evil eye, 1 14 ; 
waved round patient, 119; worn as 
charm, 192, 195-6, as vow, 171 

Coloured water (arati), waving, 117, 

Comet, 44, 91 

Conch, musical instrument, 294 ; on 
cow's horns, 1 1 1 

Concubines kept by demons, 239 

Constellations as omens, 55 

Coorg, human sacrifice, 213-4 

Coral charm, 193 

Corpse used in sorcery, 236, 247 

Cotton seed, 53, 97, 116, 243 

Cow, 17, 58, 59, ^^, 80, 88, III, 150, 
156, 176, 202, 301, 305 

Cow-dung, 36, 53, 59, 79, 120, 208, 
209, 228, 271, 283, 288, 289, 292, 
293. 296, 393 . . 

Cowry shells in divination and fortune- 
telling, 276, 277, 283 

Crab, 72, 83, 253 

Cremation ground, goddess, 236 ; 
sorcery ceremony, 229 

Crocodile, 100, 192 

Cromlech, 14 

Cross-roads, 114, 184, 243, 244, 252, 
267, 307 

Crow, 67-9, 86-7 

Crow-pheasant, 87, 11 1 

Curds, 79, 115, 124, 244 

Curls as omens, 52-3 

Cutch making, vow, 177 

Cynodon Dae ty Ion, 45, 292 

Dacoity and housebreaking, omens, 
21-2, 40, 41-2, 55, 120 

Dakni, 49 

Dandasi, 136 

Dasara festival, 29, 82, 174, 280, 282 

Dasari, 75-6, 142, 146, 147-8, 258 

Date-palm, knots in leaves as vow, 

Datura, love charm, 239 

Days, lucky and unlucky, 17, 20, 21-2, 
24, 29, 30, 35, 44, 45, 46, 65, 67, 
69, 104, 105, 133, 134, 186, 218, 
240, 242, 284, 286-7, 299, 300, 301 

Death, omens, 15, 19, 20, 31, 54, 57, 
62, 65, 66, 67, 69, 70 

Debts settled by goddess, 172 

Deer, bone and horn, 82 ; skin, 280 

Deva-dasi (dancing-girl), 46-7 

Devanga, 47, 194 

Devil dance, 245 

Devil-dancer, 114, 212-3, 246 

Dharba grass, 52 

Dipavali festival, 135 

Dirgayus, 25 

Dog, 25, 53, 57, 58, 196, 260 

, wild, 79 

Dolichos Lablab eaten at agricultural 

festival, 300 
Domb, 33, 145, 146, 170, 243 
Dommara, 94, 98 
Donga Dasari, 41 
Donkey, 51, 242 

Dreams, lucky and unlucky, 19-20 
Drowned persons, spirits, 193, 254, 

Dugong, 85, 240 
Dung beetle, 106 
Durga puja, 280 

Ears and tail of dog cut off, 57 

Earth, annointing body, 45 ; against 
evil eye, 115, 116; balls on corpse, 
51 ; carried by immoral women, 52 ; 
effigies, 114, 120, 219, 249, 254, 287, 
305; from grave as charm, 194; in 
boundary dispute, 38 ; pelting with, 
206, 303; rolling in, 145, 146, 150; 
trodden on against evil eye, 115, by 
elephant, 2)2,; urine of enemy, 187, 

. See Ant-hill 

god, 59 

goddess, 36, 39, 199, 303 

, menstruation, 296 

spirit, 214, 215 

Earth-eating, 38-9 

snake, 96, 97 

Eclipse, 42-4, 193, 195, 225 

Effigy, 244, 250-1; ant earth, 36; 
ashes, 44, 307 ; bamboo, 1 14 ; brick, 
113, 287; charcoal, 307; clay, 148, 
247, 308-9; coloured powder, 114, 
244; earth, 114, 120, 219, 249, 254, 
287, 305; lead, 251-2; rice, 114, 
245; straw, 96, 112; wax, 248; 
wood, 112, 164, 249-50 

Eggs, 21, 34, 37, 70, 121, 132, 133, 
187, 249 

Ejjugadu sorcerer, 244 

Elephant, 83, 191, 192, 203, 297 

post for meriah sacrifice, 202-3 

Erytkrina indica, milk-post, 49 

European casts out devils, 181-2 

, spirit propitiated, 178 

Evil eye, 109-20, 1S7, 193 

tongue, 120 

Excommunication, 52, 68, no 

Fasting, 35, 135, 138, 303 
Female, unlucky omen, 21 



Ficus hispida, 293 

Finger, amputation, 240-1 

Fire by friction, 14, 35 

, sacred (homam), 51, 185, 186, 

212, 213 
Fire-walking, offering of hair to deity, 

141 ; omens, 35 ; priest sits on 

thorns, 145 
First-born child, amputation of finger, 

240-1 ; buried where jackals can 

devour it, 58; used in magic, 224-5, 

277, 240-1 
Fish, sacred, 100- 1 
Fishermen's gods, Ganjam, 164-5 
Fishes, superstitions, 100-2 
Fishing-net and trap to catch spirit, 243 
Flowers, omens, 35, 41-2, 47-8, 56 
Foetus extracted for magic, 223-6, 229 
Forefinger unlucky, 30 
Fortune-teller, initiation, 284 ; Irula, 

284 ; Yerukala, 75 

Four-legged objects, objection to carry- 
ing, 81 

Fowl, 36, 70, 98, 105, 150, 154, 171, 
246, 295, 304; sacrifice, 15, 37, 41, 
55, 68, 69, 88, 120, 133, 137, 148, 
149, 152, 156, 175, 176, 177, 178, 
187, 210, 214, 245, 248, 252, 253, 
255, 284, 296, 302, 303 

Fox, 191 

Frenzy during divination or possession, 
142, 144, 145, H7, 254, 255-6, 

278, 279, 284-5, 287 

Frog, 252, 253, 280, 305, 306; toad, 

Gadaba, 82, 175 
Gamalla, 53, 135 
Ganesa, Ganapathi, or Vigneswara, 75, 

103, 130, 156, 178, 180, 185, 276, 

289, 291, 294 
Ganga, 118, 141, 148, 214 
Gangajatra festival, 14S 
Ganja (Indian hemp), 250, 270 
Gaping, omen, 26 
Gavara, 142 
Gazelle (chinkara), 82 
Geometric patterns to cure disease, 184- 

5) 243 
Ghl, 78, 86, 124, 132, 133, 147, 185- 

See Butter 
Gingelly (Sesarium), 46, 50, 76, 127, 

Givotia rottlerifonnis , charm, 194 
Goat, 105, 154, 176, 202 ; sacrifice, 

14, 37, 57, 69, 82, 119, 137, 146, 

148, 149, 150, 175, 205, 210, 214, 

217, 244-5, 255, 267, 282, 284, 

Go-cart on wheels as vehicle of god, 175 

Gourd {Lagenaria) used in sorcery, 

227 ; to ward off evil eye, 1 14 
Grain, omens, ai, 36, 49, 136 ; in 
fortune - telling, 283 ; mixed with 
meriah ashes, 204 ; representing god- 
dess, 61 ; to appease evil spirit, 245 

crop, omens from cattle, 60 

Grama devata (village deities), 14, 22, 
27, 145, 151, 283; Amba Bhavani, 
281-2 ; Ankalamma, 22, 65 ; An- 
kamma, 285 ; Chaudeswari, 39 ; 
Chenchu Devudu, 286 ; Durgamma, 
143, 151 ; Ellamma, 41, 137; Gan- 
gamma, 38, 144, 156, 219; Guru- 
murthi, 254 ; Guttalamma, 155 ; 
Huligavva, 41 ; Karuppan, 153 ; 
Kodalamma, 36, 304 ; Kolapuri- 
amma, 283 ; Kolaramma, 103 ; Kul- 
anthal Amman, 172-3 ; Magali, 279 ; 
Mariamma, 37, 144, 146, 148, 151, 
176, 214; Mashani Chendi, 236; 
Nukalamma, 15; Pida, 175; Poler- 
amma, 35, 283, 285 ; Saptha 
Kannimar, 166, 284, 285 ; Sattandi 
Amman, 103 ; Siddedevaru, 177 ; 
Yerakamma, 75 
Grindstone in rain ceremony, 305 
Gudigara, 48, 164 
Guest, arrival, omens, 20, 67 
Gul bel ( Tinospora cor dif olio), 94 
Gun fired off to accelerate childbirth, 54 

Haddi, 83, 106 

Hair, burning, 53, 115; offered to 
deity, 137, 138, 140-1 ; to snakes, 
135 ; shaving, 22, 29, 45, 309 ; singe- 
ing as omen, 35 ; use in magic, 220, 
248, 250, 253-5 ; worn as charm, 

Hair-balls vomited by cows, 61 
marks (suli) in horses and cattle, 

Hamstringing of murderer s corpse, 


Hand, imprint against evil eye, 119-20 

Hanged person, bark of tree as charm, 

Hanuman, 41, 186, 194, 195, 304 

Hare, 24, 85 

Holeya, 28, 38, 297, 299 

Homicide, 199-236 ; as thank-offering 
for recovery from illness, 208 ; for dis- 
covering treasure, 215-21 ; to appease 
the earth spirit, 214, 215 ; to cure 
possession by devil, 221 ; to ensure 
good crops, 199-207 ; to get rid of 
concubine, 231 ; to get rid of sorcerer, 
232-4, 236 ; to increase fertility of 
the soil, 208 - 9 ; to insure cattle 
against disease, 209 ; to pro- 



Homicide — continued. 

pitiate village deities, 214 ; to secure 
foetus for sorcery, 224-30 ; to stay 
epidemic, 235-6 
Hoofs burnt in lying-in chamber, 53 
Hook-swinging, omens, 71 
Horn burnt during eclipse, 44 ; in lying- 
in chamber, 53 
Horoscope, 80, 274, 275 
Horse, 29, 62, 64, 82, 166, 186-7 

, images set up in fields, and at 

Aiyanar shrines, 166-7 
House occupation, omen, 44, 59 
House-building, omens, 33, 39-40, 70 
Human (meriah) sacrifice, 199-206 

sacrifice, substituted ceremony, 

205-7, 212 
Husband's name, pronouncing unlucky, 

Hyaena, 76, 77, 191 

Idaiyan, 15, 47 

"Iguana" {Vayanus:)^ 16, 71, 100, 
132, 220 

Image reflected in oil, 45, 55 ; cf. 127, 

Incense, 14, 53, 102, ii8, 130, 176, 177, 
194, 200, 229, 260, 261, 284, 285, 286 

Indra, 149, 310 

Infanticide, Toda, 210 

Insect in death ceremony, 106 

Insects as omens, 72 

Iron against evil eye, 117; at puberty, 
marriage, death, etc., 69, 256 ; chains 
dedicated to deity, 153-4 ; hung on 
trees, 156 ; worn by Saniyasi, 184 ; 
cure for scorpion sting, 105 ; hooks 
in back, 140 ; nails in magic, 148, 
222, 247-50, 253-6; omen, 17; 
swinging on, 145; ordeal, 52, 154; 
piercing body, 144 

Irula, 178, 234, 284 

Ivory beads worn as charm, 193 

Jackal, 58, 78, 191 ; spurious horns, 

Jagganatha temple, Puri, 142 
Jaggery, 78, 133, 147, 287 

season, religious ceremony, 173-4 

Jak {Artocarpus integrifolid), 46, 212, 

213, 229, 293 
Janappan, 48, 102 
Jasmine, 35, 197, 285 
Jogi, 77, 8S,.27i-2 
Jokumara rain-making ceremony, 306, 

Journey, omens, 23-5 
Jupiter, planet, 276 

Kadir, 83, 232 

Kaikolan, 144 

Kakkalan, 129 

Kali or Durga, festival, 282 

Kalla Alagar, 42 

Kalian, 42, 133, 169, 244, 286 

Kamma, 50, 256 

Kammalan, 42, 174 

Kaniyan, 213, 273-7, 290 

Kappiliyan, 57, 139 

Kapu, 53, 87-8, 118, 266, 306, 307 

Karamadai festival, 147-8 

Kavadi, fish, 138 ; milk, 137-40 

Kevuto, 82 

Khatri, 118 

Kodumpavi, 308, 309 

Koliyan, 117 

Konda Dora, 265 

Kondh, 21, 56, 66, 76, 83, 86, 87, in, 

199-207, 236, 260, 305 
Konga Vellala, 52 
Koraga, 26, 67, 81, 151, 299 
Korama, 58 
Korava or Yerukala, 14, 21, 30, 34-5, 

40, 55, 68, 75, 120, 208, 282, 283 
Kota, 234, 279, 301 
Koyi, 21, 36, 56, 79, 87, 88, 90, 175, 

207, 243, 262, 264, 265, 302, 303 
Kudubi, 177 
Kudumi (caste), 26, 94 

(hair knot), 31, 162 

Kumbara, 26 

Kunkumam (red powder), 40, 144, 166, 

176, 192, 269 
Kuruba, 26, 52, 194, 307, 308 
Kurumba, 14, 232-4, 277, 299, 300 
Kuruvikkaran, 39, 52, 282 
Kusavan potter, 166-7 
Kuttichattan, 237-8 

Lakshmi or Lutchmi, 61, 195 
Lambadi or Brinjari, loi, 136, 154, 

155, 181, 209, 210 
Lamp and wick, 18, 32, 39, 50, 97, 

106, 116, 117, 118, 121, 130, 136, 

143, 149, 178, 184, 209, 212, 229, 

243, 244, 251, 261, 268, 270, 278, 

290, 294 
Leaf garments, 149-52 
Leaf-cup, 33, 46, 290 
Leather, beating with, 146-7 ; burnt 

in lying-in chamber, 53 ; refusal to 

touch, 81 
Leaves, devil ceremony, 246 ; omen, 

Leopard, 76, 78, 280 
Leprosy, 97, 98, 108, 310 
Lime fruit, 22, 39, 50, 160, 244, 245, 

249, 269 
Lingadar bottles evil spirits, 250 
Lingam, 91, 144.5, 183, 304, 305, 308 



Lingayat, 135, 144, 239, 256 

Lizard, 48-9, 70-1, 98-9, 105, 162, 

Looking-glass (mirror), 17, 18, 20, 293 
Loris, eye used as love charm, 240 
Love philtre, 239, 240, 241 

Madiga, 27, 77, 119, 151 

Magicians pretend to cure disease, 
264-5, 267-8 ; to discover treasure, 
268 ; to drive out devils, 268-70 ; to 
make stone bull eat, 272 

Magnesite, legend, 88 

Mahseer, loi 

Mala, 194, 216, 259 

Malaiali, 48, 146 

Malai Vellala, 83 

Malayan, 211, 212, 237, 245 

Mammals, superstitions, 73-85 

Mandula, 94, 193 

Mango, 60, 187, 285, 293 

Mannarsala, snake worship, 125-6 

Mantram, 37, 92, 93, 133, 135, 163, 
166, 180, 181, 182, 186, 187, 213, 
225, 227, 242, 244, 247, 248, 250, 
258, 261, 267, 269, 270, 276, 277 

Mantrasara, 180- 1 

Mappilla, 87, iii, 128, 129, 187, 188, 


Maravan, 53, 117 

Markandeya, 25 

Marks, unlucky, in girls, 52, 180 

Marriage of bachelor after death, 51 ; 
of boys and girls to dolls, 159 ; of 
idol to Paraiyan, 297 ; omens, 14, 
43-4. 47-50. 52, 55, 58, 63, 64; 
wave offerings, 117-8 

Marriage pots, sacrifice to, 119 

Matangi, 27 

Meals, omens, 20, 26 

Melkote temple, 297 

Menstruation, 21, 26, 46, 132, 185-6. 
See Puberty 

Mercury cups, 196 

Meriah sacrifice, 199-207 

Metal bowls, blessed at Mecca, 188 

Metal votive, and other offerings, 160-4 

Milk, 21, 35, 79, 82, III, 118, 121, 
124, 131, 133, 134, 135, 136, 138, 
139, 140, 285, 287, 300, 301, 304 

, human, for scorpion sting, 105 

Milk-hedge {Euphorbia Tirucalli), 105, 

— —post, 49, 50, 256 
Mimusops hexandra, milk-post, 49 
Minige (Argyreia) in Badaga cere- 
mony, 301 
Mohwa or ippa {Bassia), 56, 302 
Mondi mendicant, 145 
Monkey, 17, 73, 205, 207, 240 

Monster, birth, 53 ; regarded as a 

devil, 230 
Months, lucky and unlucky, 45, 46 
Moon, 17, 22, 43, 55, 104, 105, 190, 

191, 220, 229, 239, 299, 302, 306 
Moon-shaped amulets, 195 
Morning, omen on waking, 19 
Mosquito, 82, 105 
Mouse, 240 
Mouth-lock, 139 
Muduvar, 73, 76 
Muhammadan, 29, 30, 31, 98, 119, 

120, 163, 164, 170, 171, 187, 188, 

195, 230, 249, 266, 269, 297 
Mungoose, 98 

Muni or Munisvara, 177, 209, 258, 295 
Munro, Sir Thomas, 34 
Murrel (Ophiocephalus), 102 
Museum, visit unlucky, 54 
Musk in agricultural ceremony, 293 
Mustard in evil eye ceremony, 119 

Nagarapanchami, 123, 124, 135 
Nail-cuttings burnt against evil eye, 

115 ; in lying-in chamber, 53 
Nalke devil-dancer, 237 
Nambiathy priest at snake shrine, 

Names, lucky and unlucky, 20, 34, 55, 

56, 133-4, 143 

of holy persons drunk as charm, 187 

Nandi (sacred bull), 154, 304, 308 

Nattukottai Chetti, 117 

Nayadi, curse, 119 

Nayar, 16, 17, 18, III, 1 18, 128-9, 

138, 161, 193, 256 
Netra mangalya, 167 
Nim or margosa {Melia Azadt7-achia), 

36, 53, 55. 94, 105, IIS, 133, 144, 

149, 150, 151. 156, 214, 254, 285, 

304. 306 
Nobili, Dr, and magician, 271-2 
Nudity, 37, 104, 151, 224-5, 227, 309 
Numbers, lucky and unlucky, 23, 26, 

30, 31. 33. 34, 49, 52, 56, 68, 75, 117, 

133. 13s, 136, 184, 186, 194, 228, 

229, 248, 249, 251-2, 253, 299, 309 

Odde, 68, 70, 93, 109, 256 

Odi cult, 226-30 

Odina Wodier, abode of devils, 286 ; 
milk-post, 49 

Odiyan, 226 

Offspring, desire for, 218; cocoanut 
broken on head, 146 ; diet of monkey 
flesh, 73 ; ear - boring ceremony on 
doll, 159; eating cakes, 54 ; offerings 
and vows, 40, 72, 124, 132, 133, 141, 
142, 143, 147.8, 150, 151, 155, 158-9, 
164, 166, 185 ; snake songs, 128 



Oil, ceremonial use, i8, 29, 40, 45, 50, 
119, 178, 201, 243, 282, 292 ; magic 
oil, 96, 97, 226-9 ; niarks on door, 
119 ; omen, 40; reflection of image, 

45. 55 

Oleander (Nerium), used in anointing 
body, 45 

Omens, good and bad, 15-7 

Ordeal, charcoal, 286 ; fire, 146 ; iron, 
52, 154; oil, 146, 197, 264, 282; 
rice, 285, 288 ; sieve, 288 ; snake- 
bite, 123 

Ordure, omen, 59 ; pelting with, 303 ; 
thrown into houses, 145 

Owl, 65-7 

Pali VAN, 69, 78, 81, 94 

Pallan, 117, 1 33 

Palli, 49-50, 52, 117, 133, 152, 153, 216 

Palm - leaf book (grandha), 18, 225, 

253. 275, 293 ; charm, 43, 189, 246, 

253 ; scroll, 172 
Palmyra palm, climbing, 84 ; fruits to 

ward off evil eye, 113 ; leaf charm, 

187 ; many-branched treeworshipped, 

Palni shrine, 137-8, 143, 157 
Pampanmekkat (snake guardian), Nam- 

butiri, 126-8 
Panan, 211, 228, 237 
Panchagavyam, 79 
Panchamritham, 78 
Pandanus fascicularis, believed to 

harbour snake, 96 
Pandavas, 79, 85, 152, 265, 305, 309 
Pandu kuli supposed to contain 

treasure, 215-6 
Paniyan, 68, 83, 231, 260 
Pano, 221 
Paraiyan (Pariah) Malayalam, 83, 225, 

227-8, 232, 246, 255 
Paraiyan, Tamil, 17, 27, 51, 57, 84, 

117, 118, 133, 148, 158, 194, 197, 

240, 244, 297, 309 
Parasurama, 122, 150 
Parava devil-dancer, 237 
Parivaram, 254 
Partridge, 88 
Pavai (sorcery effigy), 247 
Peacock, 36, 41, 88, 200, 20 ! 
Pepper in magic ceremony, 253 
Periyapalayam, leaf festival, 148-51 
Phaseolus Alungo, thrown into ant-hill, 

Pig, 83 ; sacrifice, 56, 65, 165, 189, 

201, 211, 284, 305 
Pigeon, 70, 176, 228 
Pipal {Ficus rehgiosa), 118, 133, 138,288 
Placenta, burial, 55 ; tied to tree, 81 
Plague, 171, 266-7 

Plantain, 65, 78, 117, 121, 131, 147, 

160,^ 185, 202, 212, 251, 252, 293, 294 
Plunibago zeylanica, in magic, 228 
Pollution and purification, 26-7, 28, 

29, 34, 40, 43, 59, 67, '79, 81, 83, 

no, 121, 123, 131-2, 159, 179, 200, 

297, 298, 301 
Pompada devil-dancer, 237 
Pongal festival, 35, 133, 202 
Porcupine, 85 

Portuguese, spirits propitiated, 179 
Possession of men by gods, 56, 142, 144, 

147, 172, 213, 255, 267, 278, 279, 

282, 284, 287, 301, 308 
Pot broken at boundary, 37 ; to cure 

disease, 243 ; to scare away owls, 66 ; 

offered to cholera god, 176; toward 

off evil eye, 112, 113, 114; worn as 

charm, 194 
Prayogasara, 181 

Pregnancy 44, 53-4, 70, 85, 100, 246 
Pregnant corpses exposed in jungle, 74-5 
Prehistoric stone celts offered at shrines, 

Priapi to ward off evil eye, 112, 113, 

Prophecy, 272-7, 307-8 
Puberty, 46, 57-8, 117, 255-6, 284 
Pulaya, 17, 27, 255 
Pulluvan, 42, 129-32 
Pumpkin, 295, 302 
Puri, car festival, 142 

Quail, 88 

Quivering of animals, 14-5, 295 ; of 
human body, 13 

Ragi {Eleusine Coracana), 301 

Rags tied to bushes and trees, 155-6; 

to scare away owls, 66 ; torches, 147 
Rahu, 43 
Rain caused by monsters in the air, 

Rama, legends, 17, 24, 83-4, 87 
Ramanuja, 297 
Rama tanka, 235 
Rat-snake [Zamenis), 25, 71, 98 
Red Sanders {PterocarJ>us sanfalinus), 

wooden figures carved at Tirupati, 


Reptiles, omens, 70 - i ; superstitions, 

Rice at agricultural ceremonies, 290, 
291, 293, 294, 295, 300, 302, 304 : 
at Badaga festival, 116; at Koyi 
festival, 303 ; at meriah sacrifice, 
201, 202 ; at rain-makirig ceremony, 
309 ; at Vishu festival, 18, 289 ; 
effigies, 130, 185, 244, 245 ; in 
fortune-telling, 283 j in learning 



Rice — continued. 

alphabet, 30 ; in parturition, 54 ; 
offerings, 15, 68, 73, 125, 133, 134, 
13s, 147. I50> 156, 175. 221, 243, 
287, 299 ; omens, 20, 33, 34-S) 3^, 
37, 65 ; ordeal, 146, 285, 288 ; pot 
smeared with, 170 ; poured over 
bullock, 166 ; Russell's viper stuffed 
with, 98 ; thrown on corpse, 264 ; 
tied to marriage cloth, 49 

balls, 22, 26, 67, 86, 115, 117, 

253, 262 

, boiled, 34, 37-8, 39, 2S4 

, charred, charm, 187 

ears, food for sparrows, 87 

flour, 32, 157-8, 212 

unhusked (paddy), 27, 136, 169 

Right and left hand factions, 222 

Rings worn as amulets, 95, 191, 192, 
193 ; as vow, 161 

Roller or blue jay, 88, 279-80 

Russell's viper, 98 

Sahavasi, 102 

Sakti, 220 

Sakuna Pakshi, 104, 279 

Salagrama stone, ag8 

Saliva, 27, 98, 248 

Salt, 28, 115, 116, 118, 146 

Sandal {Santalum), 20, 41, 120, 123, 

222, 251, 293 
Sandals offered to deity, 157-S, 160 
Sand-snake {Eryx), 97-8 
Sanyasi, 159, 219, 269 
Sarasvati, 174, 276 
Savara, 33, 73, 75. 155. 164, 165, 189, 

Scorpion, 20, 82, 102-5, ^92 
Sedan, 144 
Sembadavan, 118 

Servile classes, privileges, 27, 296-8 
Setaria italica (tenai), 300 
Seven, number, 26, 30, 31, 33, 34, 49, 

52, 56, 68, 186, 228, 229, 253, 291, 

299, 309 
Shadow of European thrown on a 

feast, 109 
Shanan, 84 ,174, 178, 246 
Shark-charmer, 198 
Sheep, 14, 22, 52, 191 ; sacrifice, 37, 

38, 41, 119, 137, 148, 149, 150, 176, 

183, 214, 249, 287, 302 
Shoe-leather, omen, 57 
Shoes in lying-in chamber, 53 ; un- 
lucky, 29 
Sickle, unlucky for cutting crop, 59 
Silence, 38, 287 ; vow, 139 
Sin, killing insects, 295 ; omens, 40, 86 
Siva, 24, 65, 71, 86, loi, 115, 162, 

163, 184, 279, 297, 305, 307, 308 

Skewer through cheeks and tongue, 

138, 143, 144, 145 
Skull, human, used in sorcery, 228, 


of bull to ward off evil eye, 113 

Sleep, omens, 19 

Slippers, beating with, 28 

Smallpox, 29, 36, 39, 59, 115, 166 

175, 212, 235 
Smasanakollai festival, 136 
Snake, 20, 25, 43, 71, 89-91, 96, 98, 

186, 260 
, cremation, 123 

gods, propitiation by Pulluvans, 


grove, 122-3, 126-7, 129, 131 

mosque at Manarghat, 129 

shrine (naga kovil), 92 

songs, 128 

stones, 120, 123-6, 1 31-3 

Snake-bite, 92-6, 193 

charmers, 92-6, 129 

wood tree, 91 

Snakes, images, 43, 124, 127, 160 

inhabit white - ant hills, 129, 


Sneezing, omen, 25, 26 

Sonaga, 196 

Sparrow, 70, 87-8 

Spider, 105, 240 

Spitting, 26, 27 

Square, magic, 32, 36-7, 74, 78, 1S3, 

184, 194, 215, 274, 276 
Squirrel, 83-4 
Sradh (anniversary ceremony for dead), 

67-8, 83 
Sravana Belgola, colossal Jain figure, 

Srinivasa fish, 102 
Sterility, umbilical cord a cure, 55 
Stone, magic (yantram rayi), 180, 

Stones piled up as vow, 158 ; in honour 
of deity, 155-7; throwing into 
house, 239 ; water-worn in shrine, 14 

Strangers, unlucky omen, 1 1 1 

Stryichnos Nnx-vomica, 248, 251, 290 

Sugar, 78, 86, 140, 147, 170, 171, 213. 
See Jaggery 

Sukra, 308, 309 

Sun, 43, 51, 64, 204, 206, 276 

god, 35 

Suttee, 75 

Sword balanced on pot, 39 ; boundary 
ceremony, 36 ; cutting body, 144, 
145, 278; in worship, 153, 177 

Syphilis, 76, 243 

Tali, 46, 47, 48, 51, 143, 153, 158, 
166, 195, 297 



Tamarind, 119, 154 

Teeth, extraction, 257-60 

Telli, 81 

Temple car, 53, 114, 144, 222-3, 

297 ; festival, 142 
Terminalia tomentosa, 36, 304 
Teyyambadi, 128 
Thanda Pulayan, 246 
Thelyphonus (whip-scorpion), 105 
Thorns fixed to door, 296 ; lying and 

sitting on, 145 ; stuck into effigies, 

120, 251, 252, 254; to catch earth 

spirit, 243 
Thread, sacred, 194 
(string), charm, 193 ; for tying 

yantram, 220; movement as omen, 15, 

41 ; wound round ant-hill, 135-6 
Thulabharam ceremony, 171-2 
Thunder, 19 
Tiger, 14, 57, 74-6, 189, 260, 261, 

262, 280 
Tipu Sultan, 44-5, lOi, 188 
Tirupati (Tirumala), 55, 137, 141, 143, 

148, 156-9, 161, 168-9 
Tiyan, 46, 82, 128, 162-3, 246 
Toad, 100 

Tobacco, 20, 27, 178, 208, 250, 259 
Toda, 141, 210, 233, 234, 279 
Toddy, 186, 187, 200, 251, 252, 253, 

262, 263, 287, 295, 299, 302 
Torch, against evil eye, 115; beating 

body, 146 ; in death ceremony, 244 ; 

rain ceremony, 309 ; snake ceremony, 

131 ; rag torch tied to tree, 156 
Tortoise, 71, 192 
Tottiyan, 14, 28, 94, 260 
Treading on charm, 185, 243, 247, 252, 

307 ; on name cut on road, 159 ; 

water poured on footsteps, 51. See 

Treasure, beliefs, 85, 90-1, 102, 221 ; 

human sacrifice, 215-21 
Tree of testimony as charm, 188 
Tree-snake, Dendrophis, 96 ; Dryophis, 

96, 97 

Trisula (Siva's trident), 183-4 

Tiid {Meliosma pungens) in Badaga 
cereinony, 300 

Tulsi {Ocimum sanctum)^ 53, 291 

Turban, omen, 41 

Turmeric, 36, 40, 77, 114, II7. 125, 
130, 166, 170, 171, 175, 176, 177, 
185, 190, 194, 199, 202, 206, 212, 
227, 243, 246, 269, 278, 283, 284, 
292, 293, 295 

Twins, 54 

Umbilical cord, 25, 54-5, 105 
Umbrella, unlucky, 29, 63 ; silver, 
offering, 160 

Uncle, 55 ; maternal, 54, 55, 70 ; 
paternal, 55 

Urali, 48, 68 

Urine of animals as omen, 15, 21, 58; 
of enemy in magic, 187, 248; of 
cattle, 58, 59, 79, 97 ; of monkey, 
73; of monsters, 310-1 ; of wild 
dogs, 79 

Vada, 40-1 

Valaiyan, 56, 133, 244, 286 

Valluvan magician, 268 

Valmiki, 135 

Varuna, 122, 305 

Varuna japam, prayer to the rain god, 

Velama, 216 
Velichchapad, 277-8 
Vellalan, 133 
Venus, planet, 44 
Vettiyan grave-digger, 309 
Vettuvan, 151 

Vigna Catiajig stsAs as omens, 39 
Viramushti, 94, 144 
Virgin and Child, picture works 

miracles, 161 
, catamenial blood in magic, 

240 ; corpse in sorcery, 242 ; vows, 

Vishnupad (feet of Vishnu), 193 
Vishu festival, 17-9, 289 
Vontigadu ceremony, 50-1 
Vulture, sarced, 86 

Washing of feet, ceremonial, 22, 31 
Water, charm, 189 ; drunk as charm, 

187; holy, 14, 123, 220; poured 

over idol as vow, 147 ; cf. 142 
Water-snake, 96, 98 
Wave offering, 114, 115, 117-9, 135, 

171, 245 
White-ant. See Ant 
Whooping-cough caused by Bhairava, 

the dog-god, 196 
Widow, 21, 30, 46, 51, 52 
Winnowing basket, 292, 293 ; fan, 26, 

283, 306; sieve, 20, 80, 117, 287; 

tray, 68, 283 
Wolf, 77 
Woodpecker, 85 
Wool of black sheep, charm, 191 
Words, lucky and unlucky, 29, 30, 31 

Yanadi, 82, 95, 285 

Yantram, 182, 185-7, 196-7, 219, 227 

Yantrasara, 181 

Yerukala. See Korava 

Yetah fish {Bagaritts), used in magic, 

Yogi, 104 



Date Due 

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Library Bureau Cat. no. 1137